Posts about newsinnovation

CUNY’s grant

At the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, we’re proud to announce today that we received a $3 million matching grant from the Tow Foundation to create a Center for Journalistic Innovation. As you can guess, I’ll be very involved in this.

Our idea is to start an incubator to help support new products, businesses, platforms, technologies, and standards from new companies — some that will be started by students out of my entrepreneurial journalism class — and big media as well. We will create a New Business Models for News initiative to gather and share best practices in the industry. Another intitiative will do the same with editorial innovation. We will establish a chair in journailstic innovation and scholarships for entrepreneurial students.

Columbia’s journalism school also received a $5 million Tow matching grant. They will devote their efforts primarily to new journalism education, which is needed across the nation. But because we at CUNY are new and dealt with many of those issues when we started the school from scratch, we decided instead to look outward to the news industry. We believed that the greatest need of the industry is innovation and this was our effort at an answer that we hope will be complementary and collaborative with other efforts in this area from Knight, Poynter, and others. We also will work hard to create international ties for the center’s work so we can learn lessons from around the wrold.

In CUNY’s and my work, there is a continuing theme of innovation in the news industry. The entrepreneurial journalism course received a grant from the McCormick Foundation to provide seed funding for the students’ best proposals for sustainable journalistic enterprises. There were some great plans out of the class but we quickly learned that these llitle shoots need nurturing. We believe there are many similar ideas out there that need such help. Thus, the incubator. Last fall, we held a MacArthur-Foundation-funded conference in networked journalism and David Cohn reported best practices before and after. This October, we will do likewise with another MacArthur-financed conference in New Business Models for News. Those, too, lead right into the work of the Tow Center.

Now we have to raise the other $3 million so we can open the center’s doors. That’s the plug. If you have money, connections to it, or ideas, please do let me know. I’m eager to get going.

Arianna invades Chicago

Last night at one of the Guardian’s Future of Journalism sessions they are running for staff (and putting online), editor Alan Rusbridger had a conversation with Arianna Huffington and I do believe this is new: Arianna is going local. She’ll devote one editor to curating news and blog posts in the market. Jemima Kiss beat me to blogging this (she must have had less of the red wine at the dinner afterwards). She just added a green section and will launch books, international, and sports soon.

“We are an aspiring newspaper,” she said.

I was just with Emily Bell, head of digital at the Guardian, and she used the right word to describe this: Agile. Arianna and company decide to start taking over the world and they just do it. Big, old newspapers plan and fret instead. Want to offer readers a new area of coverage? Start with one editor, find out what’s available, and get moving. Agile.

Inventive news

In the news business these days, innovation is coming from the oddest places, like Gannett (which has revolutionized its newsrooms more than any other company I can name here) and now the Washington Times. Yes, the Washington Times. Craig Stoltz reviews the new web design there and I think he’s right: It’s groundbreaking. The ability to dig deeper with media, themes (aka tags), and links (very Daylifey, I might add) is quite nice. The wowy presentation of that on the main story on the home page does not, unfortunately, carry through to story pages. But the information and organization is still there. See also the organization of news by themes. I’d have to live with it to see whether it works or wears thin. But give them points: It’s refreshing.

Change 101

Reading Vin Crosbie’s piece about the resistance to change and general obstructionism he has found teaching at journalism school (he doesn’t say it, but he has spent the year at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University), it makes me triply glad I am teaching at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. This will come off as blatant self-promotion for the school but so be it.

Vin said: “What I found were faculties resistant to change and students whose insights and mastery of new media were being eroded by the authoritative resistance to change of so many professors. . . I’ve also discovered that media academics follow, rather than lead, their industries.”

When I arrived at CUNY, I feared I would find what Vin did. But I haven’t, not at all. I thought I might be marginalized as the crazy guy. But that hasn’t happened.

Instead, in the last few months, I’ve been teaching the faculty itself in all the tools of online: blogs, wikis, RSS, video, SEO, and on and on. The best part of this has not been my colleagues’ receptivity to, curiosity about, and eagerness to adapt the tools themselves in their classes but the discussion we have shared about the impact of these tools on journalism and education. We’ve had rich back and forth on the new architecture of media and news that the impact of this change on journalism education.

I don’t mean to say that my colleagues immediately drink my Kool-Aid; there is disagreement and debate, as I’d hope there would be. At last week’s session, for example, I showed Twitter, predicting that a few of my fellow profs would shake their heads at the tchotchkefication of the world into 140 characters’ worth of words. Heads did shake. One of the professors said she gets the impact on journalism of other technologies we’ve discussed — indeed, she is using them, creating class blogs and more. But she challenged me to demonstrate the journalistic relevance of this one. Fair enough. I showed news organizations using Twitter to distribute headlines and bulletins. I talked about other news organizations, like Sky.com, using Twitter to report on breaking news live. I told them that I’d just seen the BBC and Reuters using Twitter to extract news (by, for example, searching for big-event tripwords like “explosion” and “earthquake”); the thought is that Twitter could be the canary in the news coal mine and that similar use of Flickr, YouTube, Technorati, and other services will surface witnesses’ pictures, video, and accounts. I passed that quiz.

Here’s the Keynote we’ve been using as notes for this discussion.

At CUNY, we are teaching the tools of all media to all students and requiring them to make stories in various media throughout their time there. The faculty are learning the tools as well (I say “are learning” instead of “have learned” because it’s a neverending process). At the same time, we are trying to plan how to pull down the walls between old media tracks — print, broadcast, interactive — while still preparing students for specialized jobs. We believe we have to be careful not to be overeager with this because we risk getting ahead of the job market. But there is no resistance at all to the idea that all journalists must work in all media.

More important, we realize that we are teaching change. Rich Gordon at Northwestern has said this, too: We have to get our students ready to adapt as the tools inevitably evolve. But, of course, more than the tools change. The structure of the craft changes and with it the relationship of journaliasts with the public and with newsmakers. The structure of the industry changes and with it their jobs. And the structure of narrative changes as we have new ways to tell stories. So we are also teaching our students choice. They no longer pick a medium at the beginning of their careers and stick with it. Now, every time they tell a story, they have to make choices about the best ways to do that for their audience and for the story itself. Not all students like this much choice at first; some wish we’d just tell them how to do it. But we agree that choice is one of the key skills we have to teach. That was the discussion we had at our faculty tools session last week.

How am I so lucky? I think it helps that we are a new school without a legacy to protect; instead, we are building one. It also helps that the deans recruited a great faculty and that we both get along well and, as it has turned out, agree about the need to teach change while we also teach what we love to call the eternal verities of journalism: accuracy, fairness, reporting. . . . And it helps that we are drawing students who know they are part of a new school in an industry undergoing upheaval; they are daring and they demand that we are as well. They are the ones who are going to change journalism and that’s why I took this job.

We also see that helping and leading the industry in change is part of our mission. That’s why we got a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to hold meetings in networked journalism last fall and in new business models for news this fall. We got a grant from McCormick Tribune for my entrepreneurial journalism course. We got one from Knight to help bloggers learn what the needed about media law. We are about to announce something else along these lines.

We’re far, far from perfect. Every term, we learn — from listening to our students — how to better teach our courses, adjusting syllabi as well as the curriculum. In the videos here, I describe the interactive courses to new students just admitted and we are now trying to do a better job of telling them just what tools and skills they will learn at what level. That’s an improvement. I am also constantly struggling with finding ways to teach interactivity when student journalists don’t have a public with whom to interact (any ideas, please share them). So we must change, too.

Here are the relevant slides about the interactive program.

I can’t speak for any other journalism school anywhere. And I think that Vin said what needs to be said to the academy and the industry. All I can say is that I shared Vin’s fears but I have seen that it is possible for journalism education to change and — only time will tell — lead.

In the meantime, Vin, come on by for coffee.

: ALSO: We’ve just announced our 100,000-mile warranty for students, enabling them to keep up on and brush up on new tools and skills after they graduate.

Birthin’ Barista’s babe

I’m proud to say that this is one of the outcomes of the Networked Journalism conference at CUNY last fall:

exploremontclair_headlineimage.jpgBaristanet and the Star-Ledger are joining to create a cobranded print guide to the Barista’s turf, Montclair, NJ, with content from both partners, Star-Ledger distribution, and shared effort on the advertising.

So a blogger and a newspaper are making business together. Bravo.

Debbie Galant announces the birth today:

Baristanet is again making news in the media world. This time, it’s our partnership with the Star Ledger (yes, the Star Ledger!) to create a print guide to Montclair. Last week, Baristanet founder Debbie Galant and Star Ledger editor in chief Jim Willse spoke about the partnership to a group of newspaper and web editors from all over the world.

The official matchmaker was new media evangelist Jeff Jarvis, who suggested the partnership during his Networked Media Summit in New York last October.

The co-branded 36-page “Explore Montclair” guide will have stories by Baristanet and the Ledger, and even a special Montclair crossword puzzle by Tony Orbach. It goes out to 70,000 readers on May 15. If you’re not a home subscriber, you’ll be able to pick it up at the Montclair Public Library and many other locations (more on that later.)

The ad reservation deadline is tomorrow. If you want to underwrite history, let us know right away.

I did suggest the partnership as I played Oprah during Q&A in a session at the conference. But Debbie and Jim Willse both rejected the idea of starting online. They came up with the idea of a print guide with Barista’s cool attitude and the Ledger’s stores of information.

I am delighted that they recognized their complementary assets and goals. Barista has its unique local knowledge and voice as well as its reputation in town and online (including with hyperlocal advertisers). The Ledger has the power of its infrastructure — printing, distribution, ad sales — and its reporters and archives as well as its brand and reputation. To compete would be silly and destructive. To cooperate, they can build something together they couldn’t build as well apart.

This is thinking like a network.

(Disclosures: I also sat in on their meetings. And I used to work for and still work with the Ledger’s parent company.)