Imagine a new marketplace of local news coverage.
Start here: At CUNY, our students report on New York and much of their work ends up in publications and on sites around the city through our NYCity News Service, which is edited and managed by Jere Hester, former city editor of the NY Daily News.
We’ve been talking about how our students could possibly help serve and supplement local news outlets more as they shrink. Friend Jay Rosen at NYU and I have also been talking about this and we were further inspired by the organization of a new content-sharing consortium among a handful of New-York-area newspapers. How could journalism students feed into that – or into similar consortia that are forming all around the country? How could we use the good efforts of students to make sure that more news gets covered and that their coverage gets more reach? Jay and Jack Lail bounced the idea back and forth on Twitter this weekend.
Carry this notion to its logical extension and we see the start of a marketplace of news and assignments. In the print consortia, it only makes sense that one paper will ask another: ‘Are you covering this? If you do, I won’t so I can cover something else that we can share.’ That leads inevitably to a market of assignments and once that exists, there’s no reason others can’t join in: journalism students, freelancers, photographers, bloggers, too. Worried about quality? Well maybe there will be a process of reverse-bidding: three people sign up for the same assignment and it goes to the one with the best clips. If nobody signs up, maybe the price of the assignment goes up. It’s a market and I’m hoping to tempt Jay to use his students in his new Studio program to think it through.
What we’ve just built is a new ecosystem of news that tries to make sure that more news gets covered. It’s collaborative and complementary, as I believe news will be – will have to be – in the future. Yes, one could also say it’s anticompetitive but that’s the last problem for news organizations today (and, again, this is the one idea on news’ future that I share with David Carr).
From a news organization’s perspective, once a consortium/marketplace/ecosystem is opened, up, it requires different skills to manage: finding and knowing talent and helping make it better – organizing, curating, educating. From the community’s perspective, we should hope that all the important stories don’t end up with just one reporter and one perspective (I think editorial ego will take care of that) but instead that more news gets covered. From a journalism-school perspective, there are questions – namely, how should these assignments and opportunities fit into a curriculum to make sure that students leave with the broad range of skills and not just clips papers need.
Let’s also ask about journalism schools’ wider role as education becomes more important in new-media and community-practiced journalism: The pros need training in new media and new skills (while they still have jobs or as they reinvent themselves on their own) and the community often wants training in the essentials of new media tools and journalistic skills. The South Coast paper has trained more than 600 members of the community in an ambitious eight-week course and it is recruiting more. The Oakland Press is also holding classes. Papers and a university in Minnesota got a state grant to retrain professional journalists. Now add this: Trinity Mirror in the U.K. is hiring high-school kids to work on hyperlocal blogs. See also Robert Niles arguing that in their drive for professionalism, local news organizations (especially TV, I’d say) became disconnected from their communities and should be hiring from those communities.
The role of journalism education and journalism students in their communities will change as journalism changes. There’s a new ecosystem emerging and our roles in it will change as well.