Applications are up for the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, where I teach. But it’s a new school, so that might stand to reason. But they’re also up at least one other and much older J-school in New York. And they’re up at J-schools in the U.K. Lots of possible reasons: Business school doesn’t look so good anymore. Entry-level journalists try to leapfrog other competitors by getting a degree. Young people recognize the need for journalism. Note well that even as newspapers moan and mourn, more people see opportunities in journalism.
Posts about cuny
Bravo to the Oakland Press, which just announced that it is opening a classroom for citizen journalists. Named, with admirable hauteur, The Oakland Press Institute for Citizen Journalism, it is built under the believe that “there are ways for readers to help tell stories better, quicker and more completely.”
That is why we will be offering anyone who is interested — from high school students to retirees — instruction in news writing, videography, basics of reporting for news and sports, and still photography.
For those who complete the instruction, we offer the opportunity to get your work published online or in the print edition. This experience would be especially helpful for high school and college students viewing careers in the communications field. In addition, others can work toward becoming members of our freelance stable of journalists.
Beautiful. The best part is that the instruction will be done by members of the paper’s staff. Now I know some bloggers might say, “We don’t need your instruction, press people, you need ours.” And the second half of that is true – everyone in this classroom can learn. But so long as the instruction is offered in the spirit of generosity – “Here’s what we know and how we ply our trade and we will no longer keep it secret as a priesthood but will share it openly” – then everyone wins. The public can learn those tricks of their trade. The journalists build a new relationship of mutual trust with the public. The news organization expands journalism into the community – as the Oakland Press’ announcement eloquenty argues in what amounts to a white paper on the virtues of citizen journalism.
I started arguing for the idea of the newsroom as classroom in 2005 and said this transformation will do more than bring in more news; it will change the very nature of a newspaper:
Once again, Hugh McLeod said it better than I just did: We need to think as “a point on the map where wonderful people cluster together to do wonderful things.” How do we help people gather to share what they know and need to know? How do we turn newspapers into newsplaces?
So the education and the relationship goes well past the classroom, of course. A great editor educates every day. A great reporter learns every day. Educators learn from the students; so journalists will no doubt learn how to shoot better Flip videos or tag Flickr photos from members of the public. And the newsroom necessarily tears down its walls and opens up to the community, becomes part of the community. I mean that figuratively and literally: the newsroom as cafe, the distributed newsroom everywhere in town.
This new relationship, I believe, will be the foundation of a new business model for news. For as the paper can no longer afford the cash and risk to own everything and do everything and is it builds this new relationship of trust with the public, it will have to see the opportunity in helping the public, its partners, build their own value and businesses together. This, I hope, is the first seed of the network.
I also believe that journalism schools must offer to help and must see that they have a role and responsibility to train not just the professionals but anyone. I have been applying for grants to start a program to help newsrooms – closed cultures that they have been – to learn how to teach and to create curricula to help. My argument has been that programs to teach citizens separately don’t scale and don’t reform the relationship between journalists and the public. Among the things that could be taught: your right to access to public documents, meetings, and official information; how to research and verify information; journalistic ethics (a discussion!), corrections (also a discussion!); how to record public meetings as podcasts; how to shoot better photos and video; how to sell ads to support blogs and reporting…. From my grant proposal:
The goal is both to improve the quality of citizen journalism and to establish a new and collaborative relationship of respect between professionals and amateurs, opening up the newsroom and its culture and expanding the reach of journalism in the community. Through this program, these news organizations – and others who will watch their progress – will learn and prove the business case for harnessing citizen effort and knowledge. The project will lead to new work in networked journalism….”
I only wish I could attend the inaugural class of The Oakland Press Institute for Citizen Journalism. (Will you webcast it, teacher?)
[via Jay Rosen]
Here’s a first draft – sure to change – of a presentation I plan to give to open and set the table for the New Business Models for News Summit at CUNY. I won’t go through it lline-by-line that morning; I added more detail since I’m posting it here for your comment, correction, questions, arguments.
I should add that the conference is now oversubscribed for the space. Sorry.
Paul Farhi of the Washington Post issues a resounding apologia for journalists in the American Journalism Review, arguing that the fall of newspapers isn’t their fault. Then Roy Greenslade leaps up with a resounding hear! hear! They echo a defense earlier this year from Adrian Monck (who had decreed, “The crops did not fail because we offended the gods”).
Though I respect these three men, I must call bullshit.
The fall of journalism is, indeed, journalists’ fault.
It is our fault that we did not see the change coming soon enough and ready our craft for the transition. It is our fault that we did not see and exploit — hell, we resisted — all the opportunities new media and new relationships with the public presented. It is our fault that we did not give adequate stewardship to journalism and left the business to the business people. It is our fault that we lost readers and squandered trust. It is our fault that we sat back and expected to be supported in the manner to which we had become accustomed by some unknown princely patron. Responsibility and blame are indeed ours.
Farhi’s rationalization on behalf of his fellow journalists makes many bad assumptions and blind turns and Greenslade only follows him down those alleys, piping in with (my emphases follow) an “unhesitating answer” of no to accusations of journalistic guilt. “There cannot be any doubt that journalists themselves … cannot be held responsible for either the financial woes of the industry nor for the public turning its back on the ‘products’ that contain their work.” He piles on: “They are blameless.” They have “no reason to feel guilty…. It isn’t our fault…. The truth is that we are being assailed by revolutionary technological forces completely outside of our control…. We journalists are not [his emphasis] paying the price for our own (alleged) failures…. you are not the cause of the current calamity.”
The hack doth protest too much.
Farhi assumes that a newspaper is a well-defined product that is no longer supported by classified and retail advertisers and that’s not our fault. He acknowledges that newspapers should be updating their sites, adding Twitter, social networking, Google Maps, and more video. But he ignores the greater need and opportunity to rethink and reinvent journalism itself.
The internet does not just present a few glittery toys. It presents the circumstances to change our relationship with the public, to work collaboratively in networks, to find new efficiencies thanks to the link, to rethink how we cover and present news. No, the essence of the problem is that we thought the internet represented just a new gadget and not a fundamental change in society, the economy, and thus journalism.
By maintaining the newspaper and its newsroom as essentially static entities, Farhi also makes the common and dangerous assumption that their budgets are also fixed: They are what they are because they always have been and so that’s what they need to be. So it’s not their fault that they need to be supported at that level. But newsrooms are terribly inefficient and too many of their expenses were fueled by ego. We bear business responsibility. That is why I am teaching business in a journalism school, so we can be better stewards.
Farhi glosses over — in an unjournalistic way, I’m afraid — the state of the business and its relationship with its public. He brags that almost 50 million Americans still buy papers and so, he argues, readership is not the issue. But circulation is down more than 14 percent since 1970 and since then population has risen by 50 percent, so the adjusted loss is 74 percent. If steady, circulation should be 92 million today. Penetration is roughly half what it was: a mere 17 percent vs. 30 percent. I’d say our relationship with readers is a problem — in more ways than one: A Gallup survey says 52 percent of Americans do not trust news media, up from 30 percent in 1972. Are the two tied? Of course, they are. Who’s responsible for that?
“The critics have it exactly backward,” Farhi says. “Journalists and journalism are the victims, not the cause, of the industry’s shaken state.” Victims? As Farhi says to the critics, “Oh, please.”
Victimhood is an irresponsible abdication of responsibility, a surrender. He might as well declare newspapers dead: Oh, well, we did our best, but everybody around us fucked up and so they’re going to go away now. How dare they do this to us?
My purpose in rebutting Farhi and Greenslade is not to beat up journalists but instead to empower them. The reason to take responsibility for the fall of journalism is to take responsibility for the fate of journalism. Who’s going to try to save it if not for journalists? We are indeed responsible for the future of journalism and we have about one minute to grab that bull by its horns.
(This is why I am holding a conference at CUNY on new business models for news. There is not a minute to waste.)
At the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, we’re proud to announce today that we received a $3 million matching grant from the Tow Foundation to create a Center for Journalistic Innovation. As you can guess, I’ll be very involved in this.
Our idea is to start an incubator to help support new products, businesses, platforms, technologies, and standards from new companies — some that will be started by students out of my entrepreneurial journalism class — and big media as well. We will create a New Business Models for News initiative to gather and share best practices in the industry. Another intitiative will do the same with editorial innovation. We will establish a chair in journailstic innovation and scholarships for entrepreneurial students.
Columbia’s journalism school also received a $5 million Tow matching grant. They will devote their efforts primarily to new journalism education, which is needed across the nation. But because we at CUNY are new and dealt with many of those issues when we started the school from scratch, we decided instead to look outward to the news industry. We believed that the greatest need of the industry is innovation and this was our effort at an answer that we hope will be complementary and collaborative with other efforts in this area from Knight, Poynter, and others. We also will work hard to create international ties for the center’s work so we can learn lessons from around the wrold.
In CUNY’s and my work, there is a continuing theme of innovation in the news industry. The entrepreneurial journalism course received a grant from the McCormick Foundation to provide seed funding for the students’ best proposals for sustainable journalistic enterprises. There were some great plans out of the class but we quickly learned that these llitle shoots need nurturing. We believe there are many similar ideas out there that need such help. Thus, the incubator. Last fall, we held a MacArthur-Foundation-funded conference in networked journalism and David Cohn reported best practices before and after. This October, we will do likewise with another MacArthur-financed conference in New Business Models for News. Those, too, lead right into the work of the Tow Center.
Now we have to raise the other $3 million so we can open the center’s doors. That’s the plug. If you have money, connections to it, or ideas, please do let me know. I’m eager to get going.