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, Schibsted, 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.

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  • http://www.decaturnewsonline.com Geoff

    This is great, Jeff. I’m finding with my new online only publication (www.DecaturNewsOnline.com) that thinking like a journo and thinking like an entrepreneur are both absolute necessities and must go hand in hand in the “new world.” In talking to lots of folks thinking about working with me / contributing. Sometimes I seem to talking a different language to them. The older journos know how to get a story, but they have no idea how to get them out / where to get them out. And some of them are struggling right now – trying to decide if they want to continue to be journos. It seems to me that your students will be “set.” They will be able to work the new system, and not have to rely on the old dinosaurs to provide their next meal.

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  • http://rjicollab.ning.com/ Adam Glenn

    The call was a great start to sharing ideas for how to bring our students (and ourselves) into this new realm.

    Now, as we move forward, we should be thinking about developing an entrepreneurial journalism “conveyor belt.” That’s the point I was making during our call, building on Jeff’s comment that likened students’ entrepreneurial ideas to “hot-house flowers” that need longer-term TLC to survive the release into the larger community.

    The “conveyor belt” notion — borrowed from Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone (see Paul Tough’s marvelous book, “Whatever It Takes,” or the discussion of “conveyor belt” here: http://www.america.gov/st/democracy-english/2009/March/20090309111426ebyessedo9.594363e-02.html) — is to extend our teaching and idea development beyond the academic cycle. In other words, we should offer some kind of post-grad continuum of mentoring and support services, ranging from further capacity building/training to providing methodologies, including business and technical templates. This would help prop up nascent entrepreneurial journalists, especially as they try to launch projects of their own, but also as they introduce entrepreneurial projects into larger corporate media enterprises.

    I can offer one possible venue for this — The Collaboratory (http://rjicollab.ning.com/) launched by me, Amy Gahran and Jane Stevens last year for the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri. The aim was first to bring together an assortment of entrepreneurial journalists, business and ad/marketing experts, technologists, information designers, etc. (we’ve got more than 430 members now). Then the idea was to go beyond discussions and have them actually collaborate on projects together — we’ve started a few, including a JurnosWiki resource guide (http://jurnos.wikispaces.com/), a “building blocks” manual for step-by-step launch of niche news sites, and exploration of a business assessment tool.

    Another possible venue for this conveyor belt is “The Thousand Project” — a new endeavor I’m helping develop with The World Co./Lawrence (KS) Journal World. As part of a pilot launching local, highly networked niche news sites, the project will develop an extensive array of services for entrepreneurial journalists, including an extensive roadmap for startups (launch cookbooks, business templates, etc.), open-source tools, and workshop, mentoring and project analysis resources.

    Whatever approach we might take on such a “conveyor belt,” I think it’s likely an essential ingredient in the eventual success of the entrepreneurial ventures our teaching plants the seeds for. I’ll look forward to talking more about this, and other initiatives on our next call.

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  • http://www.sunidesigns.com suvarna

    Whatever approach we might take on such a “conveyor belt,” I think it’s likely an essential ingredient in the eventual success of the entrepreneurial ventures our teaching plants the seeds for. I’ll look forward to talking more about this, and other initiatives on our next call.

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  • http://www.wahabstudio.com Hameed S.

    Some one born with the passion for patriotism can only do it.
    Thats called Journalism……..

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