Introducing Beta Test Diaries, your guide to using Searchlights and Sunglasses – Knight Foundation

Introducing Beta Test Diaries, your guide to using Searchlights and Sunglasses

Today, Knight Foundation launched a new digital book and teaching tool, Searchlights and Sunglasses. Here author Eric Newton kicks off a series on how students, educators and professional journalists can use the book.

We hope our newly launched Searchlights and Sunglasses demonstrates the power of digital books and teaching tools not just to teachers but to students, professors, professionals and community members.

The blog series Beta Test Diaries, starting today and running throughout the coming weeks, will light up different pathways through the book. Students, teachers, professors, librarians and journalists will report how they’re using Searchlights and Sunglasses, showing their peers how it can supplement their digital transformation regimen.

This first tour of the book comes from Katrina Bruno, a student from Florida International University’s communications school who went on to become a program coordinator at the Posse Foundation. She chose to demonstrate how the book appeals to different people by creating three composite characters, a student, a teacher and a professional, and reporting their favorite pieces in the book: RELATED LINKS

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Jose Knight is a junior majoring in journalism. He is an average college student, with a 3.0 GPA, and a decent writer. He thinks he might be able to make a career of it. He doesn’t think he knows much about current media trends, though he hangs out in social media and geeks out online when he needs to dig into something. He’d rather read the Huffington Post than pay for news. He likes education, science and politics. He has an iPhone full of sports apps.

He has danced with the idea of writing for some kind of magazine or newspaper, but his professors seem confused about what jobs are out there. He knows he needs experience, worries about getting it. He hears a lot about journalism evolving in the digital age, but can’t really tell you what that means. His classes so far have been basic pre-requisites. This year, in his first upper-level journalism course this year, his teacher assigned readings from Searchlights and Sunglasses. He read it on his iPad. He didn’t really like what was assigned, though, and found himself going to the articles he wanted.

His favorite was To journalism students: Yes, There Are JobsIn Chapter One, he liked A History of the future of news and Ten tools to learn, more to explore. From Chapter Three, it was As social media grows, so does First Amendment appreciation.  In Chapter Five, he liked How much comfort news is in your information diet?

Jose felt a sense of relief after browsing the book. There are jobs, social media is a good thing, and the kind of writing and reporting he wants to do will still matter. He likes the lessons in the book that allow him to create, not just turn papers into teachers but put up blog posts, update Wikipedia entries, make things that other people can see and use. He wants to find a way to get into News21.


When Ima Ridder went to college, print journalism was king and the digital age was science fiction. She worked at a local newspaper for 20 years before starting her career as a community college teacher. When she goes to faculty meetings she still takes a sharp pencil and a single piece of paper folded into long-thin quarters, an improvised reporter’s notebook.

She’s one of the best hands-on teachers around but blooms red with embarrassment when she can’t make the classroom technology work and her students poke fun at her. She wants to move her classroom successes online but doesn’t know where to start. She is sure her students could teach her much about daily digital life but fears losing their respect if she asks.

She prints out Chapter Two in Searchlights and Sunglasses. She goes to the Learning Layer Directory, and clicks on the PDF for all of Chapter Two’s learning layers, and prints all 50 pages of that as well. Then she starts noticing individual learning layer lessons in other chapters, such as Expanding journalism education in Chapter Three, and prints those out.

She takes the printouts home to read over the weekend. About halfway through, it happens. With a deep, deep sigh, she mutters to herself, “you just have to … go paperless…” No matter how hard you try, she thinks, you can’t print out a video. Next week she’s going to talk with her department head about training opportunities.


Akira Aarons got her first journalism job the year the World Wide Web took hold. She can’t believe it’s been 20 years. What a ride! More readers than ever, fewer staffers than ever, a dying traditional model that trades every print dollar lost with a digital dime gained. She rolled with it, still loving to tell stories, to touch people, to see things get better when a community sees what’s really happening and deals with it.

Now most of the newspaper’s digital traffic is mobile. We haven’t even figured out how to make money online and now we have to start over again, she thinks. She envious of her youngest brother, Ainsley, an artist who taught himself to code, who in his 20s owns a piece of one tech startup and is an interface designer at another. She’s ready to learn new things as fast as she can, try community engagement experiments, do whatever it takes to change with the times.

Akira ripped through the entire book on her office desktop. She liked the community emphasis in Chapter Four. She found out about human-centered design in Learning Layer modules such as Thinking community.

In the lessons she liked Catching up the future, Making new forms of media,  Epic 2015’s wild future. It was all pretty well summed up, she thought in the Chapter One piece, The evolving profession of journalism.

Akira was excited yet anxious. There’s plenty to love, plenty to do. But following up on everything she was learning seemed impossible. The trick, she decides, is to build into every day a little time to try something new.

The Joses, Imas and Akiras in Katrina Bruno’s world did indeed go for very different parts of the digital book. But don’t take her – or our – word for it. Every day, a different guide will give you their own take on how Searchlights and Sunglasses can supplement what professional, professors, teachers and students already are consuming.  

The Beta Test Diaries are just one of the ways we’re trying to help people get the most out of this open educational resource. This week, we’ll be at showing off this new teaching tools at the Online News Association in Atlanta; later this month, at Columbia University in New York and next month at the Journalism Education Association meeting in Boston.

Read more about journalism education issues at, attend an Oct. 28 webinar for educators who want to be more digital, and tell us your stories of digital transformation using the hashtag  #edshift.

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