“I speak restaurant HTML”

There was a Roger Ebert — yes that Roger Ebert — Twitter post the other day got me thinking: “I speak restaurant HTML.”

When I worked in restaurant kitchens, before launching into my current, glamorous career, I could speak what is commonly called “restaurant Spanish;” that is I knew some basic vocabulary and syntax that helped me communicate with the native Spanish speakers we employed.

It didn’t get me very far during the week or so I spent in Spain, but got the job done in the limited confines of a kitchen during the dinner rush.

Restaurant HTML, as Ebert coined, is the bare minimum journalists need to know to operate. Most don’t need to understand the difference between a <div> tag and a <span> tag, but they should be able to embed a video, place an image and hyperlink text. Basic stuff.

Are most journalists going to be whipping up Web pages from scratch? Of course not; most will be using CMSs that have be built by Web designers fluent in HTML. But they do need to understand enough basic vocabulary and syntax so that they can post their own images and videos in blog posts, or format text online, or add links. You know, those things that make the Web the Web?

If your school’s curriculum hasn’t found a way to incorporate this basic stuff into core classes, you’re doing your students a disservice.