Posts about cuny

The blogroom

I’m woefully behind in my blogging thanks to doing things like organizing my networked journalism conference at CUNY — so I’m doubly behind blogging about the conference. But I wanted to point to Dave Winer’s post with a suggestion I, too, have been talking about for sometime: opening up a newsroom to bloggers. I’ve talked about the need to turn newsrooms into classrooms (where both tribes learn). Looking forward to exploring that.

By the way, the conference is way oversubscribed already (and I was nervous we wouldn’t get enough people with experience and interest in the field).

: While I’m linking to Dave, he argues that the social network is the same as the social graph and so we should keep calling it a network because it’s a much clearer description and less geeky and annoying. I agree.

Supporting journalistic entrepreneurialism & innovation

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve received a $100,000, two-year grant from the McCormick Tribune Foundation to provide seed funding to news start-ups developed by students in my course in entrepreneurial journalism at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. A jury of industry leaders from the media community in New York – experts in content, revenue, marketing, venture capital and startups – are speaking with the class, helping guide students through creating their proposals, and at the end they will select the projects (if any) likely of success as sustainable journalistic enterprises and deserving of investment from the fund. The full announcement is here.

How’s that for cool?

We’re teaching the class for a few reasons. First, it’s more likely than ever that journalism students today will need to work independently — and not just as freelancers banging down the door of major media but also possibly as the proprietors of new enterprises of their own; we’re seeing more and more of that. Second, journalism needs more such sustainable enterprises; this is how it will expand rather than shrink. Third, journalism needs more innovation; I think it will most likely continue to come from without rather than from within the incumbent companies. Fourth, journalists need to better understand the business of media — which they long ignored, because they could afford to — and they must take responsibility for sustaining journalism.

What’s so wonderful about this grant is that it makes all this real. The students are now competing not for a grade but for a chance to create a new product, a business, and a career. They won’t just be producing prototypes that sit on a classroom shelf. And as I told the wonderful folks at McCormick Tribune when we started discussing the idea, this sends a strong and needed message to the industry — that we must invest in innovation and the future, we have to put our money where our mouth is. Well, make that McCormick Tribune’s generously granted money.

I’m having an absolute ball teaching the course, working with the students on their good — possibly great — ideas. It’s as if I’m on the board of 15 startups. They need to create a proposal that covers everything any startup must cover: the need in the marketplace, the content/product/service plan, market research, competitive analysis, a revenue (read: advertising) plan, a marketing (read: viral) plan, an operating plan, a launch plan. We’re digging into each of these, pressing individually and as a group and with our guests to make the ideas better, find and answer the challenges. I’m not trying to turn them into MBAs, but they all must answer the question: why does the market need this and how will sustain itself. Journalistic sustainability is our rallying cry.

I am also privileged to assemble what is essentially a first-class board for the businesses in the form of the experts who are now speaking with the class. First, I had in Steven Johnson, founder of Feedmag,, and — one of the first journalists to make his career on the internet, a true entrepreneurial journalist. Next, Jim Kennedy, head of strategy for the Associated Press and thus the chief strategist of the newspaper industry. I just love that Jim pushed the students farther than they or I had, telling them after he heard their ideas they they had good ideas for sites but they were still just sites. What’s coming next? he asked. And some students came up with inspired answers. Yesterday, I had in Joan Feeney, my partner in the development and launch of Entertainment Weekly; creator of CondeNet’s Epicurious, Style, Concierge and other sites, and a genius at other launches. She generously spent three hours giving the students her distilled experience from launching new editorial products and they soaked it up. I’m bringing in more experts in venture capital, revenue/advertising, marketing, design, and such. And I’m sharing my experience, good and bad. The first week, I gave them my original memo proposing Entertainment Weekly from 1984, then the memo from on high rejecting the idea (because, said Henry Grunwald, then editor in chief of Time Inc., one magazine cannot possibly serve TV and books because people who watch TV do not read), and the business plan that led to the magazine’s launch in 1990. But what’s also great is that the students are helping each other; yesterday’s class ended with a great dialogue that helped focus and advance one student’s idea and that’s what we’re going to do again next week.

The students’ ideas are impressive but I’m not going to tell you what they are, not yet, in case one of them turns out to be the next Google. (In which case, I’ve told them, I hope they remember their school and donate a fortune.) We’ll share more when we can.

The Networked Journalism Summit

Here, at last, is a full description of the Networked Journalism Summit we’ve been organizing at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. I’m really excited about the event: a great list of people participating, many best practices and lessons to share, lots of possibility for new efforts to come out of the meeting:

* * *

The Networked Journalism Summit — bringing together the best practices and practitioners in collaborative, pro-am journalism — will be held on Oct. 10 at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, thanks to a grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

This is a day about action: next steps, new projects, new partnerships, new experiments. The first two-thirds of the day will be devoted to sharing lessons, ideas, and plans with a representative sample of different kinds of efforts, hyperlocal to national to international, with participants from big and small media, from editorial and business, from the U.S., Canada, the U.K, Germany, and France. The last third of the day will be devoted to what’s next, with participants meeting to come up with new collaborations.

What makes this meeting different? We hope this does:
* It’s about action and next steps, not talk.
* The panel discussions will be discussions, not presentations. Every session will start with very brief introductions and then go immediately to discussion from the entire room.
* This is made possible by write-ups of the work being done by everyone in the room that will be distributed before the meeting. David Cohn is reporting some of these (and they are beginning to appear on this blog); the participants will submit more. This give everyone a headstart and lets them get right to their questions. You can read these starting now at the summit blog.
* We will followup on the actions pledged by the participants with reports on progress that will be shared on this blog.
* No MSM-bashing or blog-bashing allowed. We’ll gong it off. This is about working together. The snarking is over.
We hope people leave with a lot of new information and inspiration, with new partners, and with new steps to take to spread journalism in their communities.

The premise of all this is that even as journalistic organizations may shrink, along with their revenue bases, journalism itself can and must expand and it will do that through collaborative work. The internet makes that collaboration possible and we’ve barely begun to explore the opportunities it affords. A year or two ago, the point of such a meeting might have been evangelizing this idea. But in that time, a number of great projects in collaborative, networked journalism have taken off. So now is the time to share the lessons — success and failures — from these efforts and to determine what’s needed to move on to the next goals. By bringing together about 150 practitioners from all sides, we hope that the meeting itself can spark new partnerships and projects.

Among the sessions planned:
* Sharing experience from hyperlocal projects.
* Early efforts to make money at this: ad networks, print publications (ironically), independent businesses.
* International efforts from the UK and Germany.
* Reports from visible projects, including Gannett’s reorganization of its newsrooms around citizen participation, Jay Rosen’s experience with, and Now Public.
* Video and broadcast projects.
* Projects built around data as news.
* New tools.
* Political efforts.

In the afternoon, the participants will split into groups — local east or west, national, business, multimedia, revenue, tools, and other groups that form at the meeting — to pledge next steps. After reporting back to the meeting as a whole on these promised efforts, all will be rewarded with wine.

We have a great cross-section of different kinds of efforts, different models, and different locales. There is room for a few more. If you are interested in attending, please email David Cohn, who has been doing a great job organizing the conference and the information around it: [email protected].

The meeting will begin at the auditorium in the new New York Times headquarters on 40th Street and 8th Avenue in New York. It will then move next door to the new CUNY Graduate School of Journalism at 219 W. 40th Street, New York.

This meeting is made possible entirely through a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The summit is organized by Jeff Jarvis, who heads the interactive journalism program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and blogs on journalism and media at The school has just begun its second year as the only publicly supported school of journalism in the Northeast.

The next meeting at CUNY, early next year, will focus on new business models for news.

Retrain or retire

I’ve been thinking about Mark Glaser’s lengthy column on job opportunities in journalism. On behalf of my journalism students, I’m delighted.

But what’s appalling is that newspapers are not retraining their staffs in the new skills of new media.

There are lots of cynical excuses for that: The papers want to lay off expensive people and hire cheap kids. Or the old dogs won’t — or some would say can’t — learn new skills.

Well, why not try? I have been arguing — to little result … so far — that news organizations of all sorts should train every person in the newsroom in the skills of new media: how to make video, audio, and blogs. That wouldn’t take long, just a day or two. It’s that easy. That’s why everybody out here is doing it.

There are many benefits. Staffers might get an interest in new and social media and transfer over to the internet side, saving their careers in many cases. They might simply get an understanding of the new structure of media and get an appreciation for all the new opportunities the internet provides for gathering and sharing news and that can improve their journalism. They could start producing their journalism across all media, however it’s best to tell the story and however it’s best for the public to get it. And this influx of new thinking might help the organization advance and improve.

Instead, I see newspapers waiting until the budget ax falls and then they just lay off people or pay a fortune in buyouts. That’s too late to retrain. And it is a waste of resources, intelligence, experience, and precious time.

Let’s say that a year before they got rid of a quarter of their editorial staff, the managers at the San Francisco Chronicle saw it coming but took that the time to train the entire staff in new media. They could have identified those staffers who embraced new and social media and technology (allowing them to at least keep the forward-thinking ones and scare off the old dogs). They could have started to rethink their product and service — as a staff. They could have improved their reporting and distribution of the stories they printed. They could have gotten the public excited, too, about their new ways and maybe gotten some more audience and more advertising online and avoided at least a few of those still-inevitable layoffs.

Instead, newspapers are too often playing victim, waiting for the worst to happen or taking too-small steps away from the cliff. It’s a disservice to their staffs, their readers, their shareholders.

And I won’t put that onus entirely on management. Staffs should be demanding to be trained. Photographers should be ganging up on their bosses to learn video; ditto reporters. Hell, even ad sales people should be dying to learn video so they have something new to sell.

This is on my mind also — full disclosure — because I have been trying to put together the continuing education (professional development, call it what you will) program at CUNY. If you have any ideas how we should go about this — how to convince journalists that they should learn new ways now, before it’s too late — let me know.

Guardian column: Teaching journalism

Here’s my Guardian column this week, about teaching journalism at CUNY:

As a journalism professor, I’m asked two questions these days: first, why teach journalism? Aren’t newspapers and news doomed? Why ensnare young people in a dying profession? I respond with an article of faith: journalism is evolving – at long last – and actually growing, and that’s what makes this an exciting time to get into the news business. Second, I’m asked, how should you teach journalism today? Ah, that’s the tough one. I’m still in search of the answer as I finish my first term at the new City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

Others in our faculty teach the craft of journalism: the essential skills and verities of the profession. A few students did question the continuing need for the tricks of our trade, but I’ve argued that even a blog post or a podcast requires a good intro and headline – not to mention accuracy, clarity, and fairness – just as a news story does. So pay attention to the craft, I say. And they soon came to agree.

As the guy who teaches the future, I then take students through audio, video, photos, slideshows, blogs, wikis, web pages, and more (after my teenage son instructs me, of course). What’s wonderful is that students can create things immediately – without relying on the old priesthood of the tools, whether those wizards were typesetters or cameramen – and so they learn from making.

I asked Edward Roussel, head of digital at the Telegraph, what skills he expects journalists to have in his converged newsroom and he said he wants them to have at the ready the complete toolset of media and thus the ability to choose the best means to tell any story. That is a choice we print or radio or TV people never had. So we prepare our students to feel comfortable with all the new ways of journalism by requiring them to tell stories in many media. We call that a converged curriculum.

But my course is about more than tools. It is also about blowing up preconceptions, rules and minds. We catalogued the problems facing the news business – and, yes, for a moment, some wondered whether they had made the wrong career move. But they quickly rose out of the slough of despond that still ensnares so many in the industry and realised that they face exciting new ways to practise journalism. And many were energised by the knowledge that they can – and in many cases must – work independently (this is why I will later teach a course in entrepreneurial journalism).

So one student and I sat down and reviewed all the tools she can now use to better tell the story of a changing neighbourhood: Google maps, photos, slideshows, video, audio, blogs, interactive forums, databases – oh, and text. Another student immediately began plotting the creation of her own media property to cover the stories professional media are not covering in her ‘hood. This is why I decided to teach journalism: to be a witness at the dawn of invention.

But I also failed in some areas. The irony is that as a blogger, I did a terrible job teaching blogging. I didn’t dissect the form with the students so we could understand its proper tone and value; I wasn’t aware enough of their preconceptions and my assumptions. Most important, I couldn’t find the means to teach the fundamental lesson of our new world: interacting and working cooperatively with the public we serve. After all, I teach “interactive journalism”. But this requires having a public with whom to interact and means students must do their learning openly, though some wonder whether they are ready. With the students’ help, we’ve hatched plans for group blogs covering topics of journalistic merit and public interest.

The real lesson in all this, I think, is not about tools, skills or business forecasting. It is about embracing change, instilling a culture of innovation and experimentation and a willingness to question and try and fail. That is what the news business needs most today. It’s not about establishing a new orthodoxy of a new media priesthood; I hope we never reach that. Whether they work in old or new institutions or independently, journalists must be ready to think and act in new ways, to take advantage of new opportunities, to generously reshape their relationships with the public, to rearchitect how news and information can work, to operate without the old constraints of time and medium – and to bring to all this those enduring skills, ethics and verities of journalism that still make them valuable. That’s how I hope to teach. Whether I succeed, you’ll need to ask my students in a year, when they are out reinventing the trade we’re teaching.