Journalism students’ role in the new news marketplace

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.

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  • self-promotion

    Hey, cheap labor! let the students report the news. Then hire them, so you can lay them off later and get more students to report the news.

    I agree that news outfits are moribund, but jeff, think this through.

  • Emma G.

    More armchair drivel.

    Yeah, High School kids out reporting–that’s a brilliant idea. No doubt there’s an endless supply of the likes of Ryan McPherson all too willing to participate. You need to go back to the drawing board on this one my man.

    I’m not shedding any tears over the demise of mainstream media, mind you, but your ideas are wacky. This so called “ecosystem” you describe will become the ecosystem of the leisure class, where only the privileged few can afford to participate–students, trustifarians, and tenured professors.


  • Hey commenters, you seem to be overlooking Jeff’s simultaneous call for editors/curators — that’s part of the new ecosystem.

    This is intriguing, Jeff; imagine if it were combined with the marketplace David Cohn is creating with his project … could be interesting, eh?

  • Mike Manitoba

    Yeah, journalism students. Forget those of us ink-and-pulp vets in our thirties; we’re too old and afear’d of the big bad Internets, even though we’ve been using it for past 15-plus years.

  • I guess I disagree with some of the other commenters. I think collaborations — between student journalists and pros and between pros from different news organizations — is an idea worth exploring.

    Sure, I don’t want to get laid off so a college student who knows much less than I gets a job. But I do think that news organizations for too long have become islands unto themselves. Let’s not kill the idea of collaboration just because it could be done poorly. Any good idea — or bad one — can be done poorly.

    As far as the lack of competition … The fact is competition died in most markets long ago. Not glad to see that. I think competition has value. But let’s not pretend most daily newspaper journalists have real competition from another media organization anymore.

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  • I am a journalism student and I would be happy to work on this sort of thing…only if, however, it would lead to a job and a good salary eventually as a paid journalist. I am 27 and can’t afford it be any other way.

  • Gina, i’m with you…

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  • Roboteer

    There’s nothing wrong with collaboration, but as a practicing and, fortunately, employed journalist, I do wonder – What will happen to your journalism students when they graduate? I hope you’re not in the camp that’s promoting the end of full-time journalism. I think it’s important to have people who can dedicate their whole working days to finding, planning, preparing and presenting the stories of what’s going on in our world.

  • I find hope in the idea that innovation in media will come from those least connected to the current media norms and mores.

    We are headed to a great reappraisal of value in the world, and one perspective on the collapse of print media is that it has inherently less value in the markets that exist, or, as people continue to reject the mass identity that mass media demands.

    But I wonder if this cadre will dream up a new media that supports social identity? That is based on scalar freedoms? Or are they too tied up with large scale, centrally controlled social discourse?

  • I cannot tell you enough, Buzz machine and Jeff Jarvis are fonts of really good information.

    Question: Given that we talking about local news and info, do we keep away from the bigger topics of religion and national politics so things don’t degrade into a faith/partisan mud slinging feast?

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  • Alyssa Lenhoff and Tim Francisco

    At Youngstown State University, we are currently developing a collaborative news bureau very much like the one you are describing. Our idea is for students to cover enterprise and investigative stories from the Rust Belt region. We see this as a potentially positive contribution to the collapsing media market in Northeastern Ohio. We are looking for ways to involve other universities, particularly in the Rust Belt region. We would love to exchange ideas and feedback here or in some other venue. We can be reached via e-mail at or

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  • Graduated students have always been a cheap(er) source of labor than the older, more experience workers in a field. And in an economy such as this one, it’s a little embarrassing that inexperienced reporters may be hired in lieu of experiences ones, simply because newspaper or magazine payrolls can’t afford the big shots.

    Still, Jeff is calling for journalism to adapt, just like it had to do when radios entered consumer homes, and later television. These things were supposed to kill newspapers – they didn’t. I’m not claiming that print will survive its latest competitor, but regardless of the punches, journalism has found a way to roll and survive.

    On that note, as a graduating journalism student myself, I’m one of those people that will be studying abroad and building my portfolio until the dust settles. I can only hope that the summer season will bolster the economy just a bit, even if families won’t be vacationing the same way as they did years before.

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