Thursday, December 10, 2009

Feeling Good About Journalism's Future

(UPDATE: Check out Jeff Jarvis's post about this. Much better than mine below.)

This fall for me, it hasn't just been all Tim Tebow obsession and media consulting (and opining). I spent the fall semester helping Jeff Jarvis teach his "Entrepreneurial Journalism" course at City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism.

I loved being in the classroom -- and loved working with the students even more. The assignment was "easy": Over the course of the term, develop a journalism business that would ultimately be pitched to a jury of media industry stars -- charged with dispensing $50,000 in grant money.

What I loved most was the sense of innovation -- of possibility -- that the students brought to the challenge. Some ideas were grandiose, some were limited -- all were ultimately born of the passion of the student, which is the right foundation as they became journalism-entrepreneurs.

The jury ultimately selected four ideas to fund, and they represent a handful of the ways journalism is being innovated (I'm obviously not going to tell you about the businesses themselves):

One was from a journalist whose background was software development -- this fits right into the new nexus of journalism and engineering. One was about solving an acute problem with citizen journalism. One plays in the world of social media. And one was about the journalist as a multi-platform brand unto herself, not relying on the traditional route of a single media company making stars out of reporters. (It reminded me of the plan I first created in business school to create what would become The Daily Quickie.)

Ultimately, all journalists need to think entrepreneurially, whether they are starting their own business or simply working within a larger, more (or less) established organization. Opportunities are everywhere -- now more than ever, ironically enough. And the imperative to innovate -- not just technologically, but in our assumptions about the business -- has never been greater.

Yes, funding (not to mention a revenue model) is always going to be an issue, but there is no limit to the challenges that need solving, particularly in a landscape that keeps changing.

Jeff put it best (and it is echoed in David Carr's "fresh, ferocious wave" column from a few weeks ago -- Carr was on the jury, by the way): The students' effort -- and others like it across the country -- is the biggest reason to feel fundamentally optimistic about the future of journalism and the future of media.

-- D.S.

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