Teaching entrepreneurial journalism

Posted on 11. Jan, 2010 by in Uncategorized

On Friday, we at CUNY had the honor of playing host to a conference (call) for more than two dozen educators around the world — New York to Arizona to Berkeley to Guadalajara to London to Oslo — who are teaching or starting to teach entrepreneurial journalism.

Here’s the wiki where we will continue to share syllabi, case studies, course materials, and videos. Here is a link to download the recording of the hour-long call (fast-forward past the howdys).

We share similar but not identical goals. We all agree that it’s important for journalism students — and journalists — today to understand the economics of news. Some of us add that it was irresponsible of our institutions not to teach this in the past. We agree it is important to bring entrepreneurship into the industry. Some of us concentrate more on new entrepreneurial ventures, others more on bringing innovation into existing companies. Some say journalists aren’t cut out to be entrepreneurs (I disagree) but all agree that entrepreneurship is a way to teach both innovation and business. Some notes from the call:

* At Arizona State, entrepreneurship is now a required course for journalism graduate students. AS emphasizes the need to get journalists to learn how to talk to people in other department and disciplines: how to work with engineers, especially. So AS gives student teams budgets for programming their projects; they’re looking at offering 5-10 hours per team for AS programming resources and 5-10 hours for programming resources teams find outside. They want teams to build but don’t want them to be tied to one platform. Cool, eh?

* Larry Kramer at Syracuse asked about cooperation between journalism and business schools but on the call there were notes of caution. Business students, one said, aren’t there to be entrepreneurs; business school teach corporate culture, said another; and these business students also don’t learn media. Kramer wants to teach the Harvard Business School case method but is looking for cases written from the journalistic perspective.

* Seek and ye shall find: Bill Grueskin of Columbia said the school has used a Harvard Business School case on the Norwegian wonder, Schibsted, and HBS will have another on Huffington Post. But HBS charges. Columbia created such a case on Politico and offered it to fellow faculty for free. Columbia also teaches a 60-minute MBA course and is putting that online.

* David Westphal of USC talked about the pluses and minuses of teaching interdisciplinary classes with students from various pursuits; he said it’s worth the effort to get different perspectives.

* Jay Rosen at NYU said he wants to get students to grapple with the entire problem of sustainability in journalism, putting it all on the table: journalism, audience, technology, business. He wants to “override the siloization of journalism.” He also said we need to work to attract different students who are entrepreneurially minded.

* Jim Willse, ex editor of the Star-Ledger who’s teaching at Princeton this term, said we need to give scholarships to publishers to get them into entrepreneurial programs, to change their culture.

* Many of us – Maryland, Columbia, CUNY – agreed that it’s important to have entrepreneurs and investors into class to expose journalists to their thinking.

* For our part at CUNY, here is a report from my last entrepreneurial class (funded by the McCormick Foundation) and a description of how the class works. Here also are the new business models for news (funded by the Knight Foundation) that now inspire much of our work. Note that we just added a course in hyperlocal built around running The New York Times blog, The Local, in Brookyln. We are working with The Times and others to also tackle hyperlocal advertising opportunities and challenges (funded by the Carnegie Corporation); more on that as we progress.

: ALSO: In Germany Ulrike Langer polls the journalism schools there — which operate in or close to media companies — to see what they are doing in entrepreneurial journalism and finds activity at those run by Burda and Axel Springer. (It’s in German.) Next call, we’ll have our German colleagues join us. If you know of such work going on elsewhere in the world, please let us know.

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