A new M.A. in entrepreneurial journalism at CUNY

We got some big news at CUNY this week: We are approved to offer what we believe is the first MA in entrepreneurial journalism.

Last spring, we already taught our first class of full-time entrepreneurial journalism students, awarding certificates. But now we also have the ability to award MA degrees to students who complete the CUNY J-school program plus a fourth entrepreneurial semester. This comes under the auspices of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY.

My colleague Jeremy Caplan and I teach four courses: MBA in a box in the media context (Jeremy’s qualified to teach that; I’m not); a course in disruption in media (that’s what I teach); the incubator as a course (the core of the curriculum is the students’ development of their own businesses and for that we the faculty and mentors meet individually with them and meet as a group to compare issues, problems, and solutions); and a technology course (this semester, we plan to work closely with General Assembly for some of that curriculum and are bringing in Nancy Wang and Jeff Mignon to work with students). In addition, the students do a project as an apprenticeship with a New York startup.

We are about to admit our 15+ students for the spring term, most of them professionals seeking the certificate (and in some cases a second career) with some students from our regular journalism program (they’ll be the first to earn the MA in entrepreneurial journalism).

This comes right after the fifth annual jurying for our regular entrepreneurial course, offered in the MA in journalism, in which a dozen students created their own business plans and a jury awarded seed funding from a Tow-Knight grant.

At CUNY, we are constantly changing our curriculum, updating it as reality in media shifts, as we learn new lessons, and as we see what works and doesn’t work in helping students reach their goals. That can be unsettling for both students and faculty but there’s no choice about change.

This week, coincidentally, I was contacted by two searches for journalism school deans (it appears to be open season on the species as there are even more of these jobs open). I’m not going for and certainly doubt I would be offered either, but I did offer recommendations to one of them and that caused me to take a look at the curricula for various journalism programs in the nation. There are some neat new courses and methods (e.g., via @underoak, UNC’s master’s in technology and communication). But what struck me about journalism curricula is how little some of the courses appeared to have changed, even now. What does it mean to teach magazines these days?

Jeremy and our colleagues Peter Hauck and Jennifer McFadden sat down last week and played the game of 52-card-pickup we regularly play at CUNY, rethinking what we’re teaching and how. For example, we are going to emphasize prototyping and project management more than we had. In the admissions process for this spring, we not only wanted a diverse group of students and perspectives but also of businesses, from hyperlocal content businesses to disruptive platforms. In the other arms of the Tow-Knight center, we are supporting research in new opportunities and needs in journalism to help guide students and the industry as they propose new ideas to fit new needs. And with our growing incubator, we are bringing in new services to help both students’ and outside entrepreneurial ventures.

Of course, elsewhere at CUNY, change continues apace. For example, my interactive colleague Sandeep Junnarkar and others have been shepherding into the curriculum new courses on data visualization and a modular course in coding for journalism. We find ourselves constantly managing tension between journalism and tools (always fighting to make sure the former is not overcome by the latter).

Getting a new degree in entrepreneurial journalism is just one milepost in a constant process of trying to stay an inch ahead of the snowball. I’m proud and grateful to work with an administration — Deans Steve Shepard, Judy Watson, and Steve Dougherty — and with a faculty who support this endless creative tsuris.

We teach change.

  • It is really a big news.

  • We are the Snowball.

    Journalism > Journalism Institutions

    I will redistribute

  • Well done, Jeff.

    What a wonderful start to a career in journalism.

    Send one or two of them to London please!

  • Congrats and best wishes on the new MA program. Thanks also for the shout-out to the UNC program.

    Regarding how we teach magazine writing, editing and design, our courses at UNC incorporate both print and tablet, with an eye toward niche publishing.

    That’s why I love teaching in this area — it’s always changing, which is both challenging and exciting.

  • BJ Roche

    Great, encouraging news. We are building out our courses in undergraduate entrepreneurial journalism at UMass to help students understand how they might use their skills to create their own jobs and businesses. Gotta change the syllabus for this course every time I teach it. Learning a lot from watching what you all are doing at CUNY.

  • David Cohn

    Awesome stuff jeff. The kind of education with real value. I suspect the class where they work with NY startups will be the most valuable.

  • This is very exciting. What a milestone. It;s important to offer journalists the tools they need in this ever-changing environment. I am always happy when I have the opportunity to discuss social media and multimedia journalism to students. They are always so eager to learn something new and how they can contribute more to the industry.
    Thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely be watching.

    Angela Connor
    Author, “18 Rules of Community Engagement”

  • Andy Freeman

    How are you measuring the effectiveness of this program?

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  • Remember when you guys said you would hire reporters. #PaxtonFail #2010 #2011 #2012?

  • Was out west finding myself in the Mojave desert so I’m late to reply here. I’m honored to have been involved in the early stages of what I see as the future of Journalism education. It goes without saying that Jeremy and Jeff are awesome, and I highly suggest this for mid-career professionals like myself that would rather capitalize on the obvious changes happening in the news business rather than try to stop those changes. Go for it! Congrats to CUNY!


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