Please take a look at — and rate and comment on! — a proposal I helped draft for the Knight News Challenge proposing a co-op to support the emerging local news ecosystem in otherwise-deprived New Jersey.
The idea is that the scattered, independent members of that ecosystem need help to (1) curate and share the best of what they do across all media and get them more attention; (2) organize them to create collaborative works of journalism; to train them in skills from journalism to new media to business; and (3) begin to fill in the blanks that the ecosystem and the market leave with beat reporting and investigations. It’s not meant to be a news organization so much as it helps organize and support other news organizations of all sizes, media, and models in the state. The goal is not to grow a large enterprise but to help grow a large ecosystem.
I believe we are seeing the new ecosystem emerge (see our business modeling at CUNY’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism here) but I also believe it needs help and support to grow and inspire more journalists and community members to join in. Thus the co-op.
The notion of a co-op was inspired by Deb Gallant, New Jersey’s own Queen of Hyperlocal at a meeting organized by my friend and neighbor, Chris Daggett, whom you last saw here when he ran as an independent for governor of New Jersey; now he heads the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Chris brought together other foundations plus journalists, public broadcasting folks, and state officials in an all-day meeting to look at what can be done to help New Jersey’s media future. There are other efforts coming out of these players; this is just one.
New Jersey’s media scene is a unique mess. It has never been served by the media outlets at either end of the state, in New York and Philadelphia. The daily newspapers are shrinking rapidly. The governor has been looking to sell the public broadcasting licenses here at NJN and, truth be told, they’ve never been robust.
But all that bad news is good news, for it means that New Jersey is a blank slate, a unique opportunity to build a new media sphere. We want to nurture that development. This endeavor is a not-for-profit cooperative. These enterprises also need commercial help with revenue (advertising and events); others are simultaneously working on that.
(Because entries lose paragraph-spacing, it’s a bit hard to read on the Knight site. So you can read it here but please, please do comment there. We’re eager for suggestions and questions and help in fleshing this out.)
Here are the courses that make up the new Entrepreneurial Journalism curriculum at CUNY. We plan to offer these courses this spring–to our own students and to midcareer journalists. Once approved by the state, we’ll award a certificate and then an MA in entrepreneurial journalism.
This Monday evening the 29th at 6p, we’ll hold an information session at the school–219 W. 40th St. in NY–and we’ll stream it for folks who can’t be there. Details here. We’re accepting applications now–admissions addresses here.
We’ll teach a course in business basics in the media context and a course in new business models for news–which is really, I’ve discovered, a course about disruption (whether you cause it or have to cope with it). Students will create their own business plans and incubate them in a third course. We’ll give students an immersion in relevant technologies to inform their plans. And students will work on an apprenticeship in a New York startup to be exposed to startup and engineering culture. I’m delighted to be teaching these courses with my colleague, Jeremy Caplan, and others we’re recruiting in various specialties.
Students may leave starting their own businesses and making their own jobs. They may work for startups. They may bring entrepreneurship into legacy companies. And legacy companies may send them to the program. In my Entrepreneurial Journalism class at CUNY — an inspiration for this program — we have a few midcareer professionals in the class this term and I’m finding the mix with students to be good. So we plan to continue that mix in the larger program.
This educational program is one of the three legs of the stool that makes up the new Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. We will also continue research on new business models for news. We are also starting in incubator and investment fund. The research will inform the students businesses and those in the incubator and identify new opportunities we can help start. The courses we create for this program will also bring in resources to help teach and support businesses in the incubator. And having more services in the incubator will help the students with their businesses. That’s the idea.
At the end of the day, we hope to bring more innovation and innovators to journalism. That’s the hope.
Here are the syllabi (don’t ya love that word?) for the courses. If you would prefer, you can see them on Google Docs here.
This all flows from an essential optimism about the future of journalism. We just have to build it. That’s why I’ve been teaching entrepreneurial journalism — with seven students’ businesses in development now with a total of $100,000 in seed funding — and why we are expanding that into a degree and certificate program to prepare journalists to start and run businesses and make journalism sustainable. That’s why we will continue to bring concrete specifics to the discussion about new business models for news. And that’s why we will help create those businesses in and out of the school. We will also help lead the movement to teach journalists to be entrepreneurs at other schools. And we have other plans.
I’m grateful to the The Tow Foundation for giving us the challenge grant that led to today and to the Knight Foundation for pushing us to elevate our ambition. I’m grateful to the McCormick and MacArthur foundations the Carnegie Corporation for funding work that paved the way for the center. And I’m grateful to my CUNY colleagues — Dean Steve Shepard, Associate Dean Judy Watson — for having the vision to support this work.
Jim Brady, daddy of metro/hyperlocal startup TBD.com, sent me pictures Tim Windsor sent him from our summit on new business models for news at CUNY two years ago. In the session on the new newsroom, Jim got up and started sketching the structure and size — little knowing, as he said in testimony before the FTC a while ago, that he’d end up building it at TBD.com. Jim at the whiteboard:
The detail. Note the reference to a blog network of experts — which TBD wisely built.
For the history books. If there still will be books.