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April 20 2012

17:42

Journalism Inside®

I wonder whether we should be teaching journalists to embed themselves and their abilities into the world rather than always making the world come to them. Thinking out loud…

The other day, when Amazon peeved me by suddenly trying to sell me software — who has bought a box of software in years? — it occurred to me: After software left store shelves, demand for the programmers who make it has only grown. So why, as newspapers, magazines, and books leave shelves, is there not more demand for the journalists who make them?

Companies are clamoring to hire more programmers and investors are dying to back what they do. Everybody wants more code inside their endeavors. So imagine an economy in which companies and investors want journalism inside: “We need to get us some journalists!”

It’s not quite as insane as it sounds if we rethink what a journalist does. Journalists and programmers aren’t really so different. In the the research on innovation and news we commissioned at the Tow-Knight Center, Nick Diakopoulos notes their similarity: “One of journalism’s primary raisons d’être is in gathering, producing, and disseminating information and knowledge…. What is perhaps most interesting about these processes is that they can, in theory, all be executed either by people, or by computers.” Nick’s point is not that technology would replace journalists but instead that technology provides new opportunities for news.

Programmers and journalists create similar value — or they could. Each makes sense of information. Technology brings order to the flow of information; journalists ask the questions that aren’t answered in that flow. Each brings new abilities to people — functionality (in software terms) or empowerment (in journalistic terms). But programmers don’t produce products so much as they produce ability: your ability to get what you want. Shouldn’t journalism act like that? Shouldn’t we teach them to?

Imagine a perpendicular universe in which an organization or community says: “We need someone to help make sense of this information, who can add context to it or find and fill in missing pieces or present it in a way that will make sense to people — as a narrative or a visualization. We need to get us a journalist.”

It so happens that our entrepreneurial journalism students just had the treat of hearing from Shane Snow of the startup Contently. He is offering a service to companies — brands in particular — that are indeed asking the question above. Brands, haven’t you heard, are becoming media. Instead of placing their ads around others’ content, brands are putting content around their ads. Contently lets them search its 4,000 writers’ profiles and use its reputation system to find the right writer or community manager or video maker or infographic whiz. Contently also offers to manage these tasks.

Isn’t that just PR, working for a brand? No, Shane says, because Contently provides writers to make content an audience will value instead of a message a company wants to get out. Messaging is marketing. This is more analogous to the soap opera model — or the show Northern Exposure: P&G underwrote those shows so it would have a place to put its ads. Now more brands are doing that on the web. YouTube, too, is underwriting the creation of independent content — without owning it — just so more people will have more good stuff to watch there. Advertising still subsidizes content but the chicken and the egg are trading places.

But funny you should mention PR. Its role, too, changes. In What Would Google Do? I spoke with Rishad Tobaccowalla, strategist for Publicis, and we thought of a reverse world in which public relations exists to represent the public to the company, not the other way around (a professionalization of Doc Searls’ Vendor Relationship Management). We now see companies looking for that skill. They call it community management but that’s a misnomer unless you mean it in Doc’s context: that the community manages the company (the company doesn’t manage the community).

As I wrote this, I got a lucky visit from Kevin Marks, now of Salesforce, ex of Apple, Google, and Technorati, who teaches me much about technology. He posed the programmer-v-journalist comparison another way, arguing that each models the world, one with algorithms, one with narrative (and each faces the problem of “imperfect mapping”). He called it the tension between the storyteller and the builder.

That’s a very telling contrast for journalism schools. Many of our students want to build things, which we encourage, but we constantly struggle with balancing technology and tools vs. journalism and its skills in the time we have to teach. There’s also a tension regarding what they build: journalists pride themselves on being storytellers but is that all they should build? They might build visualizations of data — which, yes tells a story, sans narrative — but shouldn’t they also build tools that enable the public to dig into its own information (see: Texas Tribune) and platforms that let them share their information?

These new opportunities have led some to believe we should turn out the mythical journalist-coder, the hacking hack who does it all. I am not so sure that unicorn lives in nature. Yes there are some; it’s possible they exist. But I don’t think that journalists must become coders to take advantage of new technologies. They need to know how to work with the coders, how to spec and modify and use these tools. They need to understand and exploit the opportunities.

They also need a different culture. Rather than seeing ourselves as the creators (and owners) of products (content), shouldn’t journalists — like coders — see themselves as the providers of services, as the builders of platforms, as the agents of empowerment for others? That’s how developers see themselves. They build things, yes, but no longer shrink-wrapped. They build tools people use; they add value to information they produce. Journalists, in addition, have seen themselves speaking for the little guy but as Kevin Marks put it to me, that role becomes subsumed by the network when the little guys can speak for themselves. Still, there’s value in using new tools to help them do that. Is that a new journalism or is that a new PR? Gulp! Depends on who gets there first.

So where do journalists fit in in the world? And what do we teach them?

Well, we still start by teaching what my dean calls the eternal verities: accuracy, fairness, completeness. Implicit in that is a sense of service and given the rise of the network we need to consider what our fundamental service is.

We teach them to gather, make sense of, present, and most importantly supplement information through reporting — but there are now so many new ways to do that, so now we don’t just teach reporting but also data skills.

We teach them to build — yes, stories, but now in more forms, and also more than stories: tools and platforms.

We also teach them to build businesses. We teach them sustainability.

We teach them to go out into their communities, but now I say we need to make them see that they are a part of and not separate from those communities, no longer envisioning ourselves at the center, gathering everyone’s attention, but instead at the edge, serving their needs, providing communities elegant organization. This is a difficult skill to teach. Since starting what we call interactive journalism (not “new media”) at CUNY, I’ve struggled with finding ways for the students to have a public with whom to interact. One way we’ve done it is The Local with The New York Times, but we need more ways.

If we consider the programmer worldview, then we need to teach journalists how to fit in to the world differently, to spread their skills and value (and values) out into other enterprises, institutions, and communities rather than making the world come to us for journalism: Need some reporting, some editing, some sense-making, some empowerment, some organization, some storytelling, some media making…? “We need to get us some journalism!”

Now, of course, the journalists will worry that when working in the employ of others, they lose the independence that their journalistic institutions afforded them (so long as those companies were rich monopolies). That is well worth the worry. But again, consider the programmer who brings her skills to an enterprise but still must decide whether the enterprise is worthy of them. Consider, too, how programmers work in open-source to spread their value — and grow it — among anyone who sees fit to use it. They don’t own coding the way we thought we owned the news. They spread it.

Shouldn’t we spread journalism out beyond our walls as not only a skill set but also a worldview, getting more people to see and create a demand for the value of accurate and reliable information (“trust is the new black,” says Craig Newmark), organized information, context, and so on? Shouldn’t we want to embed journalism the way programmers embed code? Then we wouldn’t just teach journalists to go to work for news organizations — or, for that matter, start them — but also to organize news everywhere? Whether and how to do that, I’m just beginning to wonder….

/thinkingoutloud

April 15 2012

02:44

Good CUNY news

Good news at CUNY: My colleague Sandeep Junnarkar has been promoted to my old post as director of the interactive journalism program. I’ve been pushing for this to happen for sometime because, truth is, Sandeep has been doing all the hard work to manage and improve the program since even before I started directing the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY.

I’m proud to say that not a bit of the interactive curriculum I wrote when the school started six years ago is still in force. With Sandeep’s inspiration, leadership, and experience, we’ve changed it all, updating constantly to take account of our lessons learned as faculty, of new opportunities, new needs, and new technologies (who’d have guessed six years ago that we’d be teaching Twitter?).

When we started the school, students were required to select a media speciality: print, broadcast, or interactive (just as I had to in my j-school days, picking newspapers). We soon saw that this was not the path to creating a truly converged curriculum. So the faculty and administration quickly agreed to eliminate the requirement and instead we teach all students all media, requiring them to work across media as they continue through our program. The track of courses we started with — Interactive I, II, III — has been disassembled as Sandeep and our interactive colleagues and the curriculum committee have reassembled them with innovative new modules in technology, web video, data, photography, and independent studies, along with my course in entrepreneurial journalism. That work continues. It is never done. That’s just the point of interactive.

From the start, Sandeep has been a great friend and colleague and I wanted to publicly congratulate him on a move well-deserved. The program I had the honor to help start could not be in better hands.

March 10 2011

16:30

What John Keats Can Tell Us About Teaching Journalism

Perhaps it's because I've got a Ph.D. in English and a background in print journalism, but when I consider the state of the press today, it brings to mind the poet John Keats' idea of negative capability. In a letter he wrote to his brother in December 1817, Keats described the concept as "when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason."

Comfort when faced with conflicting ideas, or ambiguity, is required today of any thoughtful consumer of journalism. How can I get the news the way I want it while also doing right by the struggling industry which produces and delivers it? My hard-copy newspaper on the stoop downstairs waiting for me in the morning? Paid apps and podcasts? Browsing the mobile web?

These are questions I weigh when immersing myself in media. As a reader, I love 5,000-word-plus narrative pieces. But I also love Chrome with multiple newspaper tabs open, and Facebook and an aggregator in the background. As a professor, I fear that I'm a member of the last generation who has the luxury of switching between mediums and genres this easily. And as a citizen of a partially functional democracy, I'm concerned that something's been lost in the 24-hour news/spin cycle, in the excessive meta-analysis-as-news, and in our push toward brevity.

When I set about designing the syllabus for "Journalism in the 21st Century," a course that I'm teaching for the first time this semester at City University of New York, I measured these concerns against the obvious possibilities of new media. As the introductory course in our new journalism minor, it prepares students who don't necessarily consume media critically for further courses in writing, editing, and digital media production.

As I rode the subway into Manhattan one morning in January with a still-damp copy of the New York Times in one hand, and the Guardian offline reader running on my iPhone in the other, I thought about the course. Then I pondered the death of print and how I'd treat it in the curriculum and embraced "negative capability." This is the bifurcating world that our students are reading and writing in, and it presents new challenges and new rewards that are practical as well as theoretical.

Originally, I wanted to strike a balance between craft-based, nuts-and-bolts writing, and media studies or mass communication and culture-style analysis. However, as the spring semester approached, the media ecosystem and the global political order were changing rapidly and were, seemingly, intrinsically linked, and I began to refine my focus, or tried to.

An Evolving Curriculum

In light of this connection, how do you teach a subject evolving as rapidly as journalism? Particularly when assumptions that we've made for generations about the relationship between the press, democracy and capitalism are being challenged domestically and on the global stage? I planned to begin the class by assigning as a textbook The Death and Life of American Journalism by Nation contributors Robert McChesney and John Nichols. But, given recent events, it felt counterintuitive to teach a new media course out of a book. So I pushed the text back to after Spring Break, and decided to teach "Journalism in the 21st Century" as the 21st century happened in real time.

By the second week of class, the protests in Tunisia and Egypt were deemed the Facebook Revolutions, and WikiLeaks was revealing the unsavory opinions diplomats had of dictators in the Arab world, whose people were now rising up against them.

When I asked the class to consider the efficacy of social networks as vehicles for activism and news dissemination, 4chan came up. We read a great profile of its founder, moot, and a piece on trolls.

As Mubarak's regime tottered, we read an academic article recommended by a colleague called Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Networked Society by Manuel Castells. He charted the rise of two-way "mass self-communication," and suggested that new media's subversive potential lies in its ability to work horizontally rather than vertically as the legacy media does.

The Role of Social Media

In Egypt, social media mobilized millions -- outside the hierarchy of the state-run media -- and Mubarack fell. Or did it? We read an article about the revolution's careful planning and execution. Then we learned how Mubarak turned off the Internet. This raised questions not only about the role of social media in the so-called Facebook Revolutions but also, closer to home, about the implications of Sen. Joe Lieberman's bill to give the President similar power over America's vast web network.

The Internet "kill switch" lesson digressed into pre-Internet online history. I recounted the bulletin board systems of my youth, in which a guy had a bunch of modems in his basement, and you'd dial in and hear the handshake, and be treated to ANSI art, grainy monochrome pornography and Anarchist's Cookbook-style bomb-building instructions. This was the pre-Internet/pre-Sept. 11 world, and it felt naively dangerous.

I referred to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's previous incarnation as a hacker, and suggested he should find a way to make a news delivery system that was dictator-proof.

A week or so later, I talked to an electrical engineer friend and pushed this admittedly polemical idea to the point of absurdity. I envisioned torrent-style news packets running over Bluetooth or Internet-less LAN in urban areas. Or small capacity disposable flash drives or old-school CD magazines sent by snail mail. Or low wattage pirate digital television stations sending Flash videos over the airwaves to be reassembled covertly by Xbox or PlayStation.

Yes, paranoid, but in the face of grasping totalitarian states, perhaps we need a way to future-proof the news that is modeled on pre-Internet social networking and magazine publishing circa-1989. Particularly in soon-to-be-emerging democracies where the Open Society Institute is investing heavily in journalism education.

What does it all mean?

While watching the revolutions unfold in the Middle East, and teaching a course parsing the media's relationship to those revolutions, I've been reminded that our primary modes of getting the news aren't necessarily fail-safe. The 161-year-old magazine Harper's is slowly folding, a content conglomerate Demand Media is now worth more than the New York Times, and the nation's foremost media critic is Jon Stewart, a comedian on basic cable.

At the same time, though, recent events -- from the coverage of the Arab uprisings to the AOL buyout of the Huffington Post -- have revealed the paradoxical robustness and frailty of new media. I can't help but think that given this fickleness, for news that's not breaking, and that requires detail, subtlety, or a capacity for ambiguity, then there might still be a place for print, or at least for some sort of hybridity.

Or it could just be that I've read too much Keats.

Devin Harner is an assistant professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/City University of New York where he teaches journalism, film, and contemporary literature. His recent scholarly work has included essays on Chuck Palahniuk's non-fiction; on the film Adaptation's relationship to Susan Orlean's, "The Orchid Thief;" and on virtual time travel through YouTube. He is currently at work on a piece that treats Buddhist philosophy in Richard Kelly's film, "Donnie Darko."

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January 03 2011

21:26

The NJ News Co-op

Please take a look at — and rate and comment on! — a proposal I helped draft for the Knight News Challenge proposing a co-op to support the emerging local news ecosystem in otherwise-deprived New Jersey.

The idea is that the scattered, independent members of that ecosystem need help to (1) curate and share the best of what they do across all media and get them more attention; (2) organize them to create collaborative works of journalism; to train them in skills from journalism to new media to business; and (3) begin to fill in the blanks that the ecosystem and the market leave with beat reporting and investigations. It’s not meant to be a news organization so much as it helps organize and support other news organizations of all sizes, media, and models in the state. The goal is not to grow a large enterprise but to help grow a large ecosystem.

I believe we are seeing the new ecosystem emerge (see our business modeling at CUNY’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism here) but I also believe it needs help and support to grow and inspire more journalists and community members to join in. Thus the co-op.

The notion of a co-op was inspired by Deb Gallant, New Jersey’s own Queen of Hyperlocal at a meeting organized by my friend and neighbor, Chris Daggett, whom you last saw here when he ran as an independent for governor of New Jersey; now he heads the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Chris brought together other foundations plus journalists, public broadcasting folks, and state officials in an all-day meeting to look at what can be done to help New Jersey’s media future. There are other efforts coming out of these players; this is just one.

New Jersey’s media scene is a unique mess. It has never been served by the media outlets at either end of the state, in New York and Philadelphia. The daily newspapers are shrinking rapidly. The governor has been looking to sell the public broadcasting licenses here at NJN and, truth be told, they’ve never been robust.

But all that bad news is good news, for it means that New Jersey is a blank slate, a unique opportunity to build a new media sphere. We want to nurture that development. This endeavor is a not-for-profit cooperative. These enterprises also need commercial help with revenue (advertising and events); others are simultaneously working on that.

(Because entries lose paragraph-spacing, it’s a bit hard to read on the Knight site. So you can read it here but please, please do comment there. We’re eager for suggestions and questions and help in fleshing this out.)

December 09 2010

19:15

J-Schools Shift from Learning Labs to Major Media Players

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

In June 2006, I published "On Behalf of Journalism: A Manifesto for Change." It examined nine propositions likely to have an effect on the future of journalism, and culminated in a number of recommendations. They focused on the role of corporations, the rise of not-for-profit media, the responsibilities of journalists, the role of government and of the public, and what was called (rather lamely, it seems in retrospect) "new forms of media."

Over the ensuing years, I have reexamined the Manifesto in light of the fast-moving changes in media and -- most recently -- with an eye toward what it might offer journalism education. (You can read my latest version of by downloading this PDF. The 2008 version is also available here in PDF.)

In pondering this new application for the Manifesto, I am struck by how powerfully two of its themes in particular resound in the world of journalism education. First, as legacy media are hollowed out by the collapse of their economic model, educational institutions are playing a far more powerful role in helping to meet the information needs of the public.

Second, the journalism academy is a key player in the search for new economic models for journalism. A myriad of new economic possibilities has appeared, from micropayments, pay walls and search-related advertising to methods that enable news consumers to opt-in to pay.

A Greater Role for Non-profits

Perhaps the most striking change for journalism schools is the degree to which we have shifted from being learning labs whose actual journalism (if any) was limited in its distribution and impact, to being significant -- even major -- media players in our communities. This is not to ignore substantial local news outlets such as at the Missouri School of Journalism, which has long operated in Columbia, Mo., on television, radio, newspaper and magazine platforms. Nonetheless, it is clear that in journalism schools across the United States major projects are increasingly making substantial contributions toward filling the holes left by the hollowing out of local "legacy" media.

In their October 19, 2009, report, "The Reconstruction of American Journalism," Len Downie (former executive editor of the Washington Post) and scholar Michael Schudson cataloged numerous ways in which colleges and universities are contributing to independent local news reporting, from the southern Florida alliance of newspapers using work from Florida International University to Northeastern University students' investigative reports appearing in the Boston Globe.

Screen shot 2010-12-09 at 9.26.18 AM.pngSimilarly, the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is a partner, along with the New York Times, in the Bay Citizen, whose content appears in the Bay Area edition of the Times. New York University's collaboration with the New York Times, The Local - East Village, appears on the newspaper's website and includes coverage of the university's immediate neighborhood.

In a speech at our school, USC Annenberg, Schudson said that "more journalism schools are going into the business of actually producing journalism." Our work mirrors several of the above-mentioned models. Neon Tommy, the voice of Annenberg Digital News, is our own web-based report, including content from classes (on science, for example, or religion) original work from the Neon Tommy staff (revealing swine flu deaths covered up by county officials) and collaborations with KPCC and with the Los Angeles Times in its Homicide Report, which focuses on documenting the lives of murder victims. Other projects have been completed in collaboration the Center for Investigative Reporting and California Watch, and appeared in the Los Angeles Times, KQED and newspapers across California.

Increased Role for Schools

So, a great deal of work is being done by journalism schools in meeting the public's need for high quality information. But what are the particular contributions of the academy? We are seeking to answer that question, too, at USC Annenberg. For example, a project based in the city of Alhambra seeks to identify how a community incorporating different language groups can come together to solve civic challenges. The Alhambra Source is a community news website that aims to bolster civic engagement in measurable ways. Researchers, led by professor Sandra Ball-Rokeach, worked in Alhambra for two years before building a site tailored to the community's specific information needs. Among the program's goals is to build a model for local media outlets in ethnically diverse communities.

"Reproducing some of the journalism of the past is not necessarily a high value activity for J-schools," said Donica Mensing, associate professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. "For this work to have value, the standards, organization, editing and networking of new models must be incorporated into the creation and distribution of the journalism. We owe it to students and to the health of the discipline to push for new skills and mindsets for the future, and avoid absorbing all energy into reproducing work we already know how to do."

Interestingly, this increased role for journalism schools -- providing more journalism to a public ever more in need of information in the public interest, while having a greater impact, more notice and more influence -- raises its own questions for the university. How do you report "without fear or favor" from within an institution that emphasizes collegiality and must balance such contending interests as protecting student privacy, raising money and burnishing community relations? Independence is one of the central values of ethical reporting. Carving out that independence within the university will not come easily.

Economic Support for Journalism

News corporations have experienced substantial economic shock, with several newspaper companies in bankruptcy, many newspapers having folded, and the remaining ones undergoing round after round of severe cuts. Yet the need for those who provide the news to keep an eye primarily on the public interest has not gone away; rather, it has been distributed. There are now multitudes of news providers. How they do their work, and what principles they hold dear, continues to matter greatly.

This opens two interesting arenas for journalism schools. One is the need for research on new economic models to supplement -- some would say replace -- the models that have been collapsing as the barrier to publication has fallen and new ways of advertising have arisen. This is a center of significant activity in the journalism academy. The City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism has a New Business Models for News Project under the leadership of Jeff Jarvis that conducts experiments and research about revenue possibilities for news.

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Similarly, Arizona State University's Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, directed by Dan Gillmor, seeks to teach ASU students entrepreneurial thinking and skills for the new media environment they'll be entering.

At USC, our research and experimentation has led us in several directions. We joined with the Knight Foundation to bring to Los Angeles the Spot.us model born in the Bay Area, which seeks to test the notion of crowdfunded journalism. Another important part of the equation is foundation support. Annenberg's Center on Health Reporting is funded entirely by the California HealthCare Foundation. Being part of a foundation-funded start-up provides invaluable experience in the challenges of protecting journalistic independence in this very different funding environment.

Moving from experimentation with new funding models to creating an environment of entrepreneurship for our students, we ran last summer a two-week, fellowship-supported experiment in collaboration with USC's business and engineering schools, bringing together our own journalism students with students from those two disciplines to develop news applications for mobile phones.

Meanwhile, Annenberg has also launched an Innovation Lab, supported by corporate contributions, enabling the research and development of new ways of providing information and new ways of supporting it.

As this new world of widely varying funding models emerges, new ethical challenges arise. The journalism academy will be essential to solving these effectively. For example: It is widely agreed that a key ethic of the new media environment is transparency. If news consumers can identify the sources of funding, for instance, of a given information outlet, they have an invaluable piece of information in judging its credibility.

Yet J-Lab's Jan Schaffer said recently that she is finding many foundation funders reluctant to be cited publicly as supporters of these new media outlets. Clearly new media forms require new ethical formulations, and the academy has a role here. The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently sponsored a symposium on ethics that included a look at donors, non-profit journalism and new investigative models. It issued a report on ethics for the new investigative newsroom. (See the PDF link within the preceding URL).

Conclusion

My review draws one clear conclusion: In the old media world, with its top-down monopolistic configuration, the problems were there to be solved by a relatively few people operating in a rigid environment. Most of those challenges are pretty much the same: It's a constant struggle to keep the public's information needs at the center of our thinking. It's unclear how we will pay for high-quality journalism. Those doing journalism (or in any way serving the public's information needs) must be held accountable.

But if the problems remain identical, they now rest in the hands of multitudes. For good and for ill, the old challenges are newly distributed throughout the population, and the solutions -- if and when they come -- will come from the many rather than the few. It's a more unsettling prospect than the familiar world of controlling monopolies and rigidly fixed patterns. It is also, in my view, a more promising one.

Geneva Overholser is a professor and director of the journalism school at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. Previously, she held the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting for the Missouri School of Journalism, where she was based in the school's Washington bureau. She was editor of the Des Moines Register from 1988 to 1995, where she led the paper to a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. While at the Register, she also earned recognition as Editor of the Year by the National Press Foundation and was named "The Best in the Business" by American Journalism Review.
She has been a columnist for the Columbia Journalism Review and frequent contributor to Poynter.org. She is co-editor, with Kathleen Hall Jamieson, of the volume "The Press," part of the Oxford University Press Institutions of American Democracy series.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

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December 02 2010

03:41

CUNY’s Entrepreneurial Journalism program

Here’s video of our information session for the new Entrepreneurial Journalism program at CUNY.

Entrepreneurial Journalism Information Session with Jeff Jarvis and Jeremy Caplan from CUNY Grad School of Journalism on Vimeo.

More information on the program — and details on how to apply — here.

And here’s the curriculum.

November 23 2010

04:21

Entrepreneurial Journalism curriculum at CUNY

Here are the courses that make up the new Entrepreneurial Journalism curriculum at CUNY. We plan to offer these courses this spring–to our own students and to midcareer journalists. Once approved by the state, we’ll award a certificate and then an MA in entrepreneurial journalism.

This Monday evening the 29th at 6p, we’ll hold an information session at the school–219 W. 40th St. in NY–and we’ll stream it for folks who can’t be there. Details here. We’re accepting applications now–admissions addresses here.

We’ll teach a course in business basics in the media context and a course in new business models for news–which is really, I’ve discovered, a course about disruption (whether you cause it or have to cope with it). Students will create their own business plans and incubate them in a third course. We’ll give students an immersion in relevant technologies to inform their plans. And students will work on an apprenticeship in a New York startup to be exposed to startup and engineering culture. I’m delighted to be teaching these courses with my colleague, Jeremy Caplan, and others we’re recruiting in various specialties.

Students may leave starting their own businesses and making their own jobs. They may work for startups. They may bring entrepreneurship into legacy companies. And legacy companies may send them to the program. In my Entrepreneurial Journalism class at CUNY — an inspiration for this program — we have a few midcareer professionals in the class this term and I’m finding the mix with students to be good. So we plan to continue that mix in the larger program.

This educational program is one of the three legs of the stool that makes up the new Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. We will also continue research on new business models for news. We are also starting in incubator and investment fund. The research will inform the students businesses and those in the incubator and identify new opportunities we can help start. The courses we create for this program will also bring in resources to help teach and support businesses in the incubator. And having more services in the incubator will help the students with their businesses. That’s the idea.

At the end of the day, we hope to bring more innovation and innovators to journalism. That’s the hope.

Here are the syllabi (don’t ya love that word?) for the courses. If you would prefer, you can see them on Google Docs here.

CUNY Entrepreneurial Journalism curriculum

September 20 2010

13:24

The Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism

Today we at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism are announcing the founding and funding of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism.

The Center, which I’ll direct, received $3 million each from the Tow and Knight foundations, in addition to earlier funding from the McCormick, MacArthur, and Carnegie foundations and CUNY. We will:

* Establish the country’s first MA degree in entrepreneurial journalism for our students and also offer certificates in the field for mid-career professional journalists.

* Continue our research in new business models for news, following on our work last summer in the new ecosystem of local news.

* Help create new enterprises in news. More on that later.

See the entire release here.

This all flows from an essential optimism about the future of journalism. We just have to build it. That’s why I’ve been teaching entrepreneurial journalism — with seven students’ businesses in development now with a total of $100,000 in seed funding — and why we are expanding that into a degree and certificate program to prepare journalists to start and run businesses and make journalism sustainable. That’s why we will continue to bring concrete specifics to the discussion about new business models for news. And that’s why we will help create those businesses in and out of the school. We will also help lead the movement to teach journalists to be entrepreneurs at other schools. And we have other plans.

I’m grateful to the The Tow Foundation for giving us the challenge grant that led to today and to the Knight Foundation for pushing us to elevate our ambition. I’m grateful to the McCormick and MacArthur foundations the Carnegie Corporation for funding work that paved the way for the center. And I’m grateful to my CUNY colleagues — Dean Steve Shepard, Associate Dean Judy Watson — for having the vision to support this work.

Watch this space.

September 13 2010

19:16

NYC J-Schools Take Divergent Paths on Training, Hyper-Local

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

Universities around the country have had to shift the approach of their journalism programs to accommodate a quickly changing media landscape. New York City's journalism schools, in particular, are working to rethink their offerings and adapt to the new world.

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"The challenge inherent to journalism programs today is like taking a bowling ball and trying to hit a fast-moving target," said Adam Penenberg, NYU faculty member and longtime online journalist. Penenberg is teaching a new undergraduate course for NYU this fall about the essentials of entrepreneurial journalism, with topics like managing analytics and using a Twitter account. "It's very difficult for curriculum to change quickly," he said.

As Jay Rosen told MediaShift editor Mark Glaser in the latest 4 Minute Roundup podcast, journalism schools had traditionally been very platform-specific, with students majoring in "broadcast" or "print."

Schools are trying though. The hacker-journalist and journo-entrepreneur are finding homes in programs like Columbia's Master of Science Program in Computer Science and Journalism or in CUNY's forthcoming entrepreneurial journalism graduate program. These cross-disciplinary degrees equip journalists with more than a background in a particular medium.

"Every student needs to grasp the entire puzzle of innovation," said Rosen. "Everything from business models and the nature of the web to involving the community and using multimedia."

Increasingly, universities are looking to project-based curriculum to teach students not only how journalism works now, but how it might survive in the future.

This year both the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute launched collaborations with the New York Times on two of its "The Local" hyper-local sites to explore the questions our news media must answer as it seeks to reboot itself and as journalism schools struggle to expose their students to the full puzzle of innovation. CUNY took over operation of The Local - Fort Greene in January and NYU's start-up The Local - East Village (LEV) goes live today.

NYU

"What I want students to do is look at the web as an opportunity to learn about journalism today by participating in it," said Rosen, who heads the Studio 20 program at NYU that has been planning the LEV for the last year. The model for the LEV site focuses on giving the community opportunities to contribute content to the site. Called the Virtual Assignment Desk, the site will have a feature that allows community members, such as NYU students and local residents, to pitch and contribute to story assignments.

"The idea is that anyone can cover the community," said Assignment Desk plug-in developer Daniel Bachhuber, a digital media manager at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

One of the challenges these types of partnerships in journalism face is ensuring that the student-produced media remains consistent with the standards of the participating news organization. That's where Rich Jones, editor of the LEV, comes in. "We'll obviously bring professional level standards to the treatment of those issues, being under the Times banner brings certain responsibilities," said Jones, a former New York Times writer. "We just want to give students the skills they were need to have a really successful career."

Another challenge NYU faces is making sure that the site remains consistent over the entire year, not just the school year. During the school year, NYU students in the Reporting New York graduate subject concentration will be responsible for the day-to-day content; during the summer the site will be run by a combination of undergraduate summer students and graduate interns in editorial leadership roles as part of the NYU Hyperlocal Newsroom Summer Academy.

"We wanted to make it available to students across the country," said Brooke Kroeger, director of the NYU Journalism Institute.

Undergraduates will be able to enroll in either of two six-week sessions; graduate students are eligible for paid editorial internships assisting with the professional staff of the LEV. "The summer program is integral to the ecosystem that supports the project," she said.

NYU also must deal with inherent conflicts in coverage of the East Village, given that the university is the neighborhood's largest land-owner. Community liaison Kim Davis will be coordinating outreach to the East Village blogosphere and will arrange any coverage pertaining to NYU itself.

"We're willing to work with anybody," said Jones. "We want to promote a real neighborhood-wide conversation, a forum for folks to write stories about themselves."

CUNY

The CUNY collaboration on The Local: Fort Greene is different from its NYU counterpart for a number of reasons. NYU is the largest land-owner in the area that the LEV is covering; CUNY is in a different borough than Fort Greene altogether. CUNY's graduate school of journalism is also relatively small, with approximately 100 students in its ranks. For these reasons, it makes sense that CUNY has taken a different tack with the overall direction for its Local.

"Our goal is to move beyond the idea that we create all the content for The Local," said Jarvis. "What we are concentrating heavily on is the encouragement of the ecosystem itself."

CUNY is taking its partnership with the NYT on The Local as an opportunity to let faculty leadership and student journalists experiment with not only different ways of telling stories, but different ways to pay for those stories, too. Through partnerships with companies like GrowthSpur Jarvis hopes that the site will encourage citizen salespeople to monetize their own start-ups.

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CUNY's Jarvis is also leading the creation of a four-semester entrepreneurial journalism graduate program that he hopes will see its students invent the future of journalism.

Through a focused entrepreneurial curriculum, research into alternative business models for news, and an incubator/investment fund for new business models for news, the program hopes to give students an option to start their own media company, according to Stephen Shepard, dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. "We feel we have to take some responsibility for the future of quality journalism," said Shepard.

"Students' most important job in journalism school is to learn journalism," said Jarvis, "but the benefit here is that they can test out their idea and get advice and help."

Columbia

Not everyone agrees with CUNY's approach, though. "There's a pretty clear finding on where universities can best contribute in a sector that is or should be going through an innovative period," said Nicolas Lemann, dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. Research is where universities can really add value, said Lemann.

Last fall, the Graduate School of Journalism released a report titled the The Reconstruction of American Journalism. Watchdog publication The Columbia Journalism Review is also run by, though editorially separate from, the school.

"We're not best positioned to be a business incubator, and though we could do that, it's not where we we can make our best contribution," said Lemann.

Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism has partly responded to the changing media environment by launching its Master of Science Program in Computer Science and Journalism, and it also offers courses like a social media seminar taught by an all-star class of professional new media journalists, such as Vadim Lavrusik of Mashable, Zach Seward of the Wall Street Journal, and Jennifer Preston of the New York Times.

Columbia also encourages journalism students to contribute to class websites. "These sites don't last very long though, and therefore don't build very significant audiences," said Lemann. "One of the things I'd like to do next is build a site that lasts year-round."

Leman's number one goal is to have a contextual curriculum that prepares students to go out and do a story. "There's endless stuff going on at the school," he said. "The aggregate is that this has been a time of real opportunity for journalism schools in general and ours in particular."

Davis Shaver is MediaShift's editorial intern. He is also the founder and publisher of Onward State, an online news organization at Penn State. He studies history and the intersection of science, technology, and society.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

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September 05 2010

14:59

The birth of TBD?

Jim Brady, daddy of metro/hyperlocal startup TBD.com, sent me pictures Tim Windsor sent him from our summit on new business models for news at CUNY two years ago. In the session on the new newsroom, Jim got up and started sketching the structure and size — little knowing, as he said in testimony before the FTC a while ago, that he’d end up building it at TBD.com. Jim at the whiteboard:

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The detail. Note the reference to a blog network of experts — which TBD wisely built.

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For the history books. If there still will be books.

September 03 2010

19:33

Business, Entrepreneurial Skills Come to Journalism School

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

For decades, journalists in mainstream news organizations were shielded from the revenue side of the operation. Many argued their lack of knowledge helped avoid even the appearance of commercial influence in the editorial well. But with increased stress in the news industry and new disruptive technologies giving even entry-level reporters an understanding of audience behaviors and income streams, things have started to shift.

Journalism educators have increasingly been helping students learn the workings of the business side of news. The trend mirrors similar changes in the newsroom. Plus, with many journalists being laid off, having the business skills to run their own media enterprise -- whether it's a blog, podcast or independent news site -- is vital to many more people.

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"It came to be recognized that journalists needed to play more of a role in the future of their enterprises," said Stephen Shepard, who talked to me recently in a phone interview. Shepard is the founding and current dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and former editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek magazine.

CUNY's J-school and a raft of other journalism schools and institutes have introduced business courses into their curricula, teaching students to read and create basic financial statements and the principles of media management. They are also launching new training programs for mid-career journalists and editors.

Janice Castro is the senior director of graduate education and teaching excellence at Medill. She told me that at Northwestern University, the Medill School of Journalism and Kellogg business school have cooperated "for a long time" in developing a media management and research center.

Full disclosure: Medill is a longtime sponsor of MediaShift.

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Four years ago, as Medill revamped its curriculum, seats in two courses in media management at Kellogg were reserved for Medill students. Medill graduate students are also required to take either a course in "Audience Insight" or "How 21st Century Media Work," and have the option to take Kellogg classes in finance.

"We think it's really important for students who are going out to operate as journalists to understand the business of media," Castro said. "It's going to help them make better choices in where they're going to work, because they'll be better able to size up the company and its direction and its vision. They'll know more than the brand or the name of a big media organization. They'll be able to assess it."

Students will also better be able to help guide the organization strategically, according to Castro and Shepard. "When you have a student who's graduated and immediately put on the management track at a major media company, that's not something that used to happen," Castro said.

Demand for Entrepreneurial Instruction

There's also increasing demand from students joining or launching startup ventures.

CUNY this month expects to announce the formation of a master's degree program in Entrepreneurial Journalism, further enriching and extending courses offered since the school's inception four years ago.

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At the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship" is devoted to the development of new media entrepreneurship and the creation of innovative digital media products," according to its site. (Read this previous MediaShift article about how the school teaches digital media entrepreneurs.)

Retha Hill is the director of the New Media Innovation Lab at Cronkite.
During a lab-focused semester, Cronkite school students "have to think about the business implications of their ideas or the information they are gathering," Hill told me via email.

Even at Columbia University, where school founder Joseph Pulitizer in 1904 wrote that he found the idea of teaching business "repugnant," students are required to learn business principles. All Masters of Science students, about 85 percent of matriculants, take a class on the "Business of Journalism" that was conceived and introduced last year by dean of academic affairs and former Wall Street Journal Online managing editor Bill Grueskin.

The course includes a Harvard Business School case study about a Norwegian media company called Schibsted that moved its business more strongly into digital media; instruction on managing profit and loss in a business; the differences in advertising and circulation revenues; principles of ad pricing; and other business issues.

Grueskin told me via email that the faculty at Columbia overwhelmingly supported the course. In a letter to them, Grueskin wrote that while Pulitzer "went out of his way to exclude business courses from the curriculum," today "journalists are increasingly being called upon to make business models work. We owe it to our students to give them a grounding in that field."

Training Institutes Step In

Training institutes, too, are helping journalists and editors learn business principles.

The Knight Digital Media Center, based at both the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, in May held a week-long "News Entrepreneur Boot Camp."

Full disclosure: Knight Digital Media Center is a sponsor of MediaShift.

Attendees, many of them mid-career journalists, learned disciplines such as business models, building a feasibility plan, customer acquisition and web analytics.

The Poynter Institute, a Florida-based journalism think tank and training center where I contribute articles and have lectured on business principles, in July named two Ford Fellows in Entrepreneurial Journalism who are mentoring startup initiatives and teaching business disciplines.

Heartening Trend

While some journalism purists may bemoan what they consider fuzzing the lines between "church (journalism) and state (business)," I find the move to integrate business into journalism education encouraging.

It's healthy, I think, that reporters and editors now believe they should understand what it is that brings in the money that goes into their paychecks.

This is not to say they should pander to commercial or financial interests -- and there is certainly a danger as even junior reporters learn how many page views (and by implication advertising impressions) a story they produce garners. One journalism educator told me that even in his "little blog" he considered whether to disrupt the center column with an ad and make more money.

It's always been a balancing act, though, even if the rank-and-file weren't completely aware. At BusinessWeek, "ad placement was always an issue," Shepard said.

That even new J-school graduates now understand some of the struggles is probably a good thing -- as long as they also are grounded in what Shepard called the "professionalism and judgment" to not "cave in all the time to advertising demands in a way that would hurt the reader or viewer."

In the long run, those guiding journalistic enterprises must understand both the editorial principles that over time bring in and maintain a community of readers and participants, as well as the business principles that sustain the operation.

If they can do so successfully, perhaps the new news businesses they are molding and creating can then survive the fate of so many of today's severely stressed news organizations.

A former managing editor at ABCNews.com and an MBA, Dorian Benkoil has devised and executed marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift. He is SVP at Teeming Media, a strategic media consultancy focused on attracting, engaging, activating communities through digital media. He tweets at @dbenk.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

January 11 2010

14:26

Teaching entrepreneurial journalism

On Friday, we at CUNY had the honor of playing host to a conference (call) for more than two dozen educators around the world — New York to Arizona to Berkeley to Guadalajara to London to Oslo — who are teaching or starting to teach entrepreneurial journalism.

Here’s the wiki where we will continue to share syllabi, case studies, course materials, and videos. Here is a link to download the recording of the hour-long call (fast-forward past the howdys).

We share similar but not identical goals. We all agree that it’s important for journalism students — and journalists — today to understand the economics of news. Some of us add that it was irresponsible of our institutions not to teach this in the past. We agree it is important to bring entrepreneurship into the industry. Some of us concentrate more on new entrepreneurial ventures, others more on bringing innovation into existing companies. Some say journalists aren’t cut out to be entrepreneurs (I disagree) but all agree that entrepreneurship is a way to teach both innovation and business. Some notes from the call:

* At Arizona State, entrepreneurship is now a required course for journalism graduate students. AS emphasizes the need to get journalists to learn how to talk to people in other department and disciplines: how to work with engineers, especially. So AS gives student teams budgets for programming their projects; they’re looking at offering 5-10 hours per team for AS programming resources and 5-10 hours for programming resources teams find outside. They want teams to build but don’t want them to be tied to one platform. Cool, eh?

* Larry Kramer at Syracuse asked about cooperation between journalism and business schools but on the call there were notes of caution. Business students, one said, aren’t there to be entrepreneurs; business school teach corporate culture, said another; and these business students also don’t learn media. Kramer wants to teach the Harvard Business School case method but is looking for cases written from the journalistic perspective.

* Seek and ye shall find: Bill Grueskin of Columbia said the school has used a Harvard Business School case on the Norwegian wonder, Shipsted, and HBS will have another on Huffington Post. But HBS charges. Columbia created such a case on Politico and offered it to fellow faculty for free. Columbia also teaches a 60-minute MBA course and is putting that online.

* David Westphal of USC talked about the pluses and minuses of teaching interdisciplinary classes with students from various pursuits; he said it’s worth the effort to get different perspectives.

* Jay Rosen at NYU said he wants to get students to grapple with the entire problem of sustainability in journalism, putting it all on the table: journalism, audience, technology, business. He wants to “override the siloization of journalism.” He also said we need to work to attract different students who are entrepreneurially minded.

* Jim Willse, ex editor of the Star-Ledger who’s teaching at Princeton this term, said we need to give scholarships to publishers to get them into entrepreneurial programs, to change their culture.

* Many of us – Maryland, Columbia, CUNY – agreed that it’s important to have entrepreneurs and investors into class to expose journalists to their thinking.

* For our part at CUNY, here is a report from my last entrepreneurial class (funded by the McCormick Foundation) and a description of how the class works. Here also are the new business models for news (funded by the Knight Foundation) that now inspire much of our work. Note that we just added a course in hyperlocal built around running The New York Times blog, The Local, in Brookyln. We are working with The Times and others to also tackle hyperlocal advertising opportunities and challenges (funded by the Carnegie Corporation); more on that as we progress.

: ALSO: In Germany Ulrike Langer polls the journalism schools there — which operate in or close to media companies — to see what they are doing in entrepreneurial journalism and finds activity at those run by Burda and Axel Springer. (It’s in German.) Next call, we’ll have our German colleagues join us. If you know of such work going on elsewhere in the world, please let us know.

09:17

J-school sourcing? CUNY takes over NYTimes.com’s The Local

New York based journalism school CUNY is to take over the New York Times’ Brooklyn blog, The Local.

Now, the daily responsibility for operating the blog covering Fort Greene and Clinton Hill will rest not with Times journalists, but with professors and students at the CUNY program.

More from The Local at this link; more from the New York Times at this link.

Meanwhile, CUNY professor Jeff Jarvis tweeted this, picking up on @xjparker’s comment:

View jeffjarvis’s tweet

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December 21 2009

16:04

Signs of hope

David Carr wrote another good and hopeful column today (this, I told him, was his burning bush column). I’m delighted that it ended with a brief report on his jurying in my entrepreneurial journalism course at CUNY:

Meanwhile, journalism schools are no longer content just to teach the inverted pyramid. A few weeks ago, I was at CUNY’s graduate school of journalism to help judge presentations from more than a dozen teams of young media entrepreneurs. There were some clunkers, as there always are, but there were also some scary good, real-world proposals from students who don’t have to think out of the box because they were never in one to begin with.

I tried to be courteous and deferential, partly out of a small fear that I may work for one of them someday. There are worse places to end up.

December 11 2009

05:31

The entrepreneurial journalism class report

Tweet: Report from my entrepreneurial journalism class: Cause for optimism

Wednesday was the best day of my year: the jurying for my entrepreneurial journalism class at CUNY. The jury awarded four businesses a total of $57,000 (thanks to a grant from the McCormick Foundation). Here’s how it works.

Because one of them could be the next Google – or Condé Nast or ESPN or AP or, better yet, something entirely new – I won’t reveal too many specifics. One of the products is a platform for news assignments I hope we’ll help deploy soon; another a mobile sports application; another a creative, algorithmic answer to filter failure; and the fourth – the one that is already public – a clever omnimedia project about the provenance of fashion called ClosetTour.

It was a tough decision for the jury. Other impressive ideas were a human – rather than algorithmic – answer to filter failure (aka editing); a specialized women’s travel service; a specialized local real estate service; a cool food idea; two business-to-business ideas; one hyperlocal/hyperinterest site; one service for a local Hispanic ecosystem; a service for NGOs; a commercial service for artists; and one idea whose three-word elevator pitch is so clear I’d give it away if I said more than one word (”news”).

There are some key insights in the students’ ideas. A few were built around the need not just to create content but to curate it. Most are highly targeted. Some saw the potential in specialized local services. Some saw the need to go mobile to service the public. Some are international. Some are multimedia. A few saw the need to make news fun, others to make news useful. Some realized that news will be created by new people in new relationships with media. You’ll be interested to know that some plan to charge users (and I endorsed those plans, unlike Mr. Murdoch’s).

This was a great class. My favorite part of teaching it is holding our board meetings, when I work with them one-on-one on every aspect of their plans: elevator pitch (utterly critic, or jurors and customers will be lost); needs statement (why does the world need this thing?); market analysis (whom are you serving?); market research (aka reporting); competitive analysis; product plan; revenue plan; marketing/distribution plan; operations (cost) plan; launch plan; and the ask (how much they want from the jury and what they’ll do with it).

Because I was out for a few weeks after my surgery, we started holding our meetings on Skype video, which works quite well, and continued in person at my whiteboard (how were companies started before dry-erase?). While I was out, friends Joan Feeney and Steven Johnson filled in, along with my associate for the class, Dan Shannoff (who not only knows journalism and the web but – bonus points – has an MBA). All three were on the jury, so they saw the incredible transformation the students and their ideas – not to mention their presentations and confidence – undergo over the term.

This is my third year teaching the class and a few things are predictable: Some high proportion of students will come into class declaring that they don’t need to worry about all this business and revenue stuff because they’ll be not-for-profit. They also tend to want to do good for its own sake. I beat their altruistic, communistic instincts out of them and turn them into passionate capitalists, emphasizing that no matter where the money goes at the end of the day, they’d better have money left over – aka profit. Their enterprises and their journalism must be sustainable or they and their businesses won’t survive. I don’t do this just to corrupt them but to give them – especially these days – a strong dose of hard reality. My not-so-hidden agenda is to teach journalists business so we can be better stewards of the business.

The jury this year was again stellar: in addition to those above, David Carr of the NYT; Fred Graver, comedy writer and entrepreneur (you should see his business plans); Charlie O’Donnell, VC from First Capital; Mark Potts, founder of GrowthSpur; Betsy Morgan, former CEO of Huffington Post; Lee DeBoer, entrepreneur; Upendra Shardanand, founder of Daylife; John Paton, CEO of Impremedia; Peter Hauck, Nancy Wang, Jeff Mignon, and Jennifer McFadden, my colleagues on the New Business Models for News Project; Elizabeth Osder, consultant and teacher.

The students get four minutes to present their ideas, the jury four minutes for questions. After almost three hours, we retire to the jury room (wine-and-cheese equipped) and the deliberations are worth the price of serving. Some complained that one student’s idea – a content idea – wasn’t really a business, that someone should just hire the student to make it a book or a site or a show. David Carr issued a winning defense of the strategy, arguing that journalists won’t all be hired; they need to make their own way to the sea (he always talks in metaphor); that is, they will need to make their own work into businesses to make it sustainable. He also urged this student not to turn out something in just one medium but to make it take advantage of every bit of functionality that will be on the mythical tablet we’ll all soon be using. He won the day.

We discuss the ideas and the students’ innovation and potential to succeed (do the have enough resources and the right skills?), identifying where the jurors see the most heat until we have, by a process of painful elimination, landed on the likely recipients. Then we debate how much money they actually need.

Finally, importantly, jurors volunteer to mentor various businesses. CUNY provides an incubator to help them succeed. I will work with the students to agree on benchmarks they must meet to receive the next piece of funding.

Two years ago, the students who won grants got jobs instead, though one student in particular made use of her proposal by bringing it into the major paper where she works. That’s one of the goals of the class and program: to infuse legacy institutions with innovation and entrepreneurship. Last year, three students won grants and they are all starting their businesses now. Next year, I’ll report back on the progress of this year’s winners.

* * *

The morning before the jurying, I was invited to meet with some of the lions of journalism – former top execs at the AP and Dow Jones and various metro papers – to present and discuss our New Business Models for News. My message: that the future is entrepreneurial not institutional, that news will come from ecosystems instead of corporations, that the transition may be too painfully impossible for their former companies. I invited them to leave their meeting and come to join our jury. I wish they had.

The starting point for an entrepreneur, I told them, is not what has been but what can be. In some cases, the opportunity they see will be to undercut the old order – ‘craiglisting’ content next. In some cases, the opportunity they see will be to do journalism in new ways that were never possible before we had this incredible linking and collaboration platform. I spent my career working with the institutions and I still will. But now I favor working with the entrepreneurs. I believe they are our future. It’s that future I saw Wednesday afternoon.

This is why I am going to devote myself more and more to entrepreneurial journalism at CUNY. More on that later.

: AND: Here’s Dan Shanoff’s post on the class and here’s Nancy Wang’s.

November 21 2009

19:58

New Business Models for News talk

Here’s my talk on CUNY’s New Business Models for News at our summit in New York:

Jeff Jarvis on New Business Models for News 2009 from CUNY Grad School of Journalism on Vimeo.

And here’s my latest Prezi:

November 12 2009

20:50

The balance shifts

At yesterday’s New Business Models for (Local) News summit at CUNY, I ran what I called a reverse panel with big media folks – NY Times, Washington Post, Gannett, Star-Ledger, Impremedia, Politico – sitting up front but ordered to listen to the wishes and needs of the people in the room. I threatened to cover the big guys’ mouths with duct tape. (A few of them seemed to honestly fear I would do that. I do need to investigate this reputation I’ve garnered.)

The putative war between mainstream media and bloggers has been declared over again and again (myself, I reported a truce three and a half years ago… oh, well). So I won’t act as there aren’t still the lone snipers in the mountains. Bloggers from medium-sized cities had plenty of complaints about the disrespect they see from their local medium-sized media outlets.

But importantly, I did see a shift in the balance of power yesterday. The big media guys on this reverse panel made it crystal clear that they not only respect but need the work of the bloggers/citizens/little-media-guys/whatever you choose to call them. The big guys acknowledged openly that they are shrinking and can no longer even pretend that they can do it all themselves.

For their part, the bloggers also made it clear that they respect and thus want attention – promotion and credit – from the big guys.

Group hug.

We are at various fulcrum points. The big, old media outlets can no longer act as if they have no problems; it’s obvious, they do. The upstarts are beginning to catch a glimmer of critical mass; we see blogs starting up all over and there are lots of new news organizations – most of them not-for-profit – rising in San Diego, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Austin; now they are joined by the for-profit local Politico. Even if you disagree with me that the future of news is entrepreneurial, there’s now no denying there is a future there.

And so the room was filled with people who were, each in his or her own way, building that future and they all recognized that they have to work together to do so. The future of news is also an ecosystem. That’s what became apparent yesterday and that, for me, was the highlight of the event.

* * *

We’re doing our post-mortems on the event at CUNY to figure out what to do better next time – and it’s clear there is a need for more of these gatherings here in New York and, we hope, across the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, bringing together builders. We heard a lot from the room about what they want next: More best practices from the kind of real experience that fed our models…. More practical advice for making money…. More education…. I’ll come back with additional thoughts after my thorough-going exhaustion wears off.

My personal thanks to the team at CUNY – led by Peter Hauck, Jennifer McFadden, and Matt Sollars – for doing great work in the models and the event and to the funders who made it possible: The MacArthur Foundation funded the events (and the prior summit led directly to a request to do the work we presented at this one); the Knight Foundation funded the work on our models and presentation of them at the Aspen Institute; the McCormick Foundation is funding ongoing work on new business models; and the Carnegie Corporation is funding work on hyperlocal labs. We’re also grateful to Mignon Media – Nancy Wang and Jeff Mignon – for their incredible work on the models; David Cohn for his tireless efforts helping us organize the events; Borrell Associates for their data and advice; and all the companies and individuals who participated yesterday. Thanks.

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