Start the presses

A set of very happy announcements from the CUNY Journalism School and the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism:

* First, we are opening the new Cuny Journalism Press. Yes, I said press. On paper. And screen. Working with the innovative OR Books and John Oakes, we are creating a press that will produce print books and e-books about journalism and by journalists with new business models (starting with a higher share of revenue to authors). Just as we are working here at CUNY on new business models for newspapers and magazines and other denizens of the printed page, so do we want to see new models come to book publishing. So my dean, Steve Shepard, my colleague Tim Harper — who is heading up the press — and others here thought it would be a great idea to start this enterprise. We’ll be announcing some other related activities with Oakes soon.

* Second, I’m thrilled to announce that the first book to be published is by none other than @acarvin, aka Andy Carvin, the man who tweeted the Arab Spring and showed us all a new way to think of journalism and how it must add value to the flow of information the net now enables. Distant Witness: Social Media, the Arab Spring and a Journalism Revolution, will be released later this year (and available for pre-order soon). I recommend the book to you all. I’ve had the privilege to read it — and write its foreword. A snippet:

Andy is a prototype for a new kind of journalist. He also turns out to be a masterful storyteller. He has taken all he witnessed from afar in the Arab Spring and crafted it into a dramatic, compelling, informative page-turner. He has combed his archive of more than 100,000 tweets and sifted through the rapid-fire, staccato progression of the voices to find a narrative sense and create a cohesive saga….

Yes, we still need reporters on the ground to ask and answer the questions. We need them to bring us perspective and context. Andy does not replace them. He and his nodes and networks of witnesses, participants and experts add to the news in ways not possible before. Journalism is not shrinking. Through Andy’s example, as well as through experiments in data journalism, crowdsourcing, hyperlocal sites and innovations yet to come, journalism is growing. Andy Carvin is proof of that.

* Tim Harper announced another three titles: Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers, by former New York Times chief counsel James Goodale; Investigative Journalism in America: A History, by Steve Weinberg, a member of the University of Missouri Journalism School faculty and co-founder of IRE, the leading association of investigative reporters and editors; and The Pleasures of Being Out of Step: Nat Hentoff’s Life in Journalism, Jazz and the First Amendment, by CUNY Journalism Professor David L. Lewis, a former Daily News reporter and “60 Minutes” producer and associate producer who is also directing a feature-length documentary on Hentoff.

If I manage to get off my duff and get moving on a project I’ve been working on, I might add to that bookshelf myself.

Just as CUNY saw an opportunity for a new journalism school when others thought journalism was dying, so did we see an opportunity to start a new press about journalism even though others declared books dying. At Tow-Knight, I believe we must not only study and teach new models but we must also help incubate them. The CUNY Journalism Press is one such effort.

  • hank m.

    Apart from Andy’s book, the launch list has two histories and a memoir. Given the school’s avowed mission, isn’t that a little, um, retrospective? Like putting chalkboards in a J-school classroom?

    • OR books

      Well, those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, no…? There’s still a place for those chalkboards, even as we explore new models.

      • hank m.

        The chalkboard comment is a reference to Jeff’s posting of a photo a while back, showing a blackboard in a new CUNY classroom. I read his caption as expressing disbelief if not disdain for the use of such an outmoded technology: (For what little it’s worth, I happen to think that any tool that supports communal learning is good, regardless of whether or not it needs to be plugged in. IOW, I’m pro-chalkboard.)

        With regard to the new venture: As Brenda Ueland would say, strength to your sword arm! It’s heartening to see the school investing in a project like this.

        But (pace Santayana) I was surprised that the first couple of titles would be looking so intently toward the past. The Pentagon Papers, the tradition of investigative journalism, the First Amendment—yes, yes, and yes. These are all foundational elements of any journalist’s education and of the laity’s understanding of journalism’s value to a society.

        Taken at face value, however, the titles seem to be preaching to the choir, and lightly scented with nostalgia.

        Like many of my unemployed journalist friends, I await word about the new models and methods.

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