Tag Archives: enterprise

Teaching entrepreneurial journalism: the elephant in the room – editorial independence

angel meets demon

How many journalism students see editorial's encounter with commerce. Image by Scot A. Harvest

There’s a wonderfully written post on Sean Blanda’s blog about fixing entrepreneurial journalism courses. Unusually, the post demonstrates a particularly acute understanding of the dynamics involved in teaching (Lesson One, based on my experience of teaching ‘strategic learners’, strikes me as a particularly effective tactic*, while Lesson Two addresses the most common problem in students’ ideas: vagueness, or ‘mass marketism’).

But it also reminded me of a conversation I had recently about journalism students’ reactions to being taught entrepreneurialism – and the one lesson that’s missing from Sean’s list.

It’s this lesson: “Why?” Continue reading

Online journalism student RSS reader starter pack: 50 RSS feeds

Teaching has begun in the new academic year and once again I’m handing out a list of recommended RSS feeds. Last year this came in the form of an OPML file, but this year I’m using Google Reader bundles (instructions on how to create one of your own are here). There are 50 feeds in all – 5 feeds in each of 10 categories. Like any list, this is reliant on my own circles of knowledge and arbitrary in various respects. But it’s a start. I’d welcome other suggestions.

Here is the list with links to the bundles. Each list is in alphabetical order – there is no ranking:

5 of the best: Community

A link to the bundle allowing you to add it to your Google Reader is here.

  1. Blaise Grimes-Viort
  2. Community Building & Community Management
  3. FeverBee
  4. ManagingCommunities.com
  5. Online Community Strategist

5 of the best: Data

This was a particularly difficult list to draw up – I went for a mix of visualisation (FlowingData), statistics (The Numbers Guy), local and national data (CountCulture and Datablog) and practical help on mashups (OUseful). I cheated a little by moving computer assisted reporting blog Slewfootsnoop into the 5 UK feeds and 10,000 Words into Multimedia. Bundle link here. Continue reading

How can the government save journalism?

I had an interesting meeting recently with an MP who wanted to get a handle on the state of the media right now and how good journalism could be supported. Rather than just hear my voice I thought it would be worth starting something wider that involves more voices, and point him to this.

To kick things off, here are some of the things I thought the government could do to create an environment that supports good journalism:

  • Release of public data (I’ve made this case before – it’s about helping create efficiencies for anyone reporting on public bodies). He seemed to feel that this argument has already been won.
  • Tax relief on donations to support investigative journalism: a number of philanthropists, foundations, public bodies and charities are starting to fund investigative journalism to fill the ‘market failure’ of commercial news production. In addition, an increasing amount of investigative journalism is being done by campaigning organisations rather than news organisations, and there is also the opportunity for new types of businesses – social enterprises and community interest companies – to fund journalism.
  • Encouraging innovation and enterprise: as regional publishers reduce their reporting staff and shut down their less profitable publications, gaps are appearing in local news coverage. Local people are launching news sites and blogs to fill those gaps – but not quickly enough, or with the resources, to match what was left behind. Funds to support these startups are much-needed and might also encourage journalists who have been made redundant to put their experience into an independent operation. There is no evidence to suggest that subsidising existing publishers will subsidise journalism; indeed, I would suggest it will stifle local innovation and economic growth.
  • Reskilling of redundant journalists: related to the last point, I would like to see funds made available to help put redundant journalists (more Chris Browns and Rick Waghorns) in a position to launch news startups. They have a wealth of experience, ability, knowledge and contacts that shouldn’t be left to waste - give them online and enterprise skills.
  • An effective local news consortia: The Digital Britain-mooted local news consortia is a vague idea in need of some meat, but clearly it could go some way to meeting the above 2 by supporting local independent media and providing training. Allowing the usual suspects to dominate any new operation will see business as usual, and innovative independent operators – including those who work on a non-commercial basis – will quickly become disillusioned. The idea of putting some or all of the commissioning process in the hands of the public, for instance, could be very interesting.
  • Address libel laws: one of the biggest obstacles to investigative reporting is the potential legal costs. Most newspapers now make a hard commercial decision on stories: if the story is worth enough money to make it worth fighting, it gets published; otherwise, it doesn’t. Public interest or importance is not the major factor other than in how it affects likely sales. Likewise, startup operations are likely to shy away from edgier reporting if they feel they can’t afford to fight for it in the courts. Stopping councils from suing for libel was an important step; keeping libel laws out of science should be the next one – and it shouldn’t stop there.

So those are the ideas that occurred to me. What would you suggest this MP, and government, do to help journalism?

What’s the future for local and regional media?

The government has launched a new inquiry into the future of local and regional media – and there’s just six weeks to have your say on the subject.

None of us (yet) have the answers to the question of new journalism business models, and the local and regional press is suffering some of the hardest hits.  But ideas and initiatives are presenting themselves everyday. And now the Culture, Media and Sport Committee is looking for views on a range of tough issues, including:

  • The impact of newspaper closures on independent local journalism and access to local information;
  • How to fund quality local journalism;
  • The appropriateness and effectiveness of print and electronic publishing initiatives undertaken directly by public sector bodies at the local level;
  • The opportunities and implications of BBC partnerships with local media;
  • Incentives for investment in local content;
  • Opportunities for “ultra-local” media services.

We’re thinking about a collective response from journalism educators and OJB readers to the key questions, coordinated from here. So to begin with, what are your ideas, links to the best think pieces you’ve read or examples you’ve seen? Do you agree with the call to relax competition laws to allow local newspaper publishers to merge? Or what about Andy Burnham’s statement that there will be no bailout for local papers.

Let’s use this as a starting point to develop a collective, crowdsourced response to the inquiry.

I’m launching an MA in Online Journalism

From September I will be running an MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University. I hope it’s going to be different from any other journalism MA.

That’s because in putting it together I’ve had the luxury of a largely blank canvas, which means I’ve not had to work within the strictures and structures of linear production based courses.

The first words I put down on that blank piece of paper were: Enterprise; experimentation; community; creativity.

And then I fleshed it out:

In the Online Journalism MA’s first stage (Certificate) students will study Journalism Enterprise. This will look at business models for online journalism, from freemium to mobile, public funding to ad networks, alongside legal and ethical considerations. I’m thinking at the moment that each student will have to research a different area and present a business case for a startup.

They will also study Newsgathering, Production and Distribution. I’m not teaching them separately because, online, they are often one and the same thing. And as students should already have basic skills in these areas, I will be focusing on building and reinventing those as they run a live news website (I’ll also be involved in an MA in Social Media, so there should be some interesting overlap).

The second stage of the MA Online Journalism (Diploma) includes the module I’m most excited about: Experimentation – aka Online Journalism Labs.

This is an explicit space for students to try new things, fail well, and learn what works. They will do this in partnership with a news organisation based on a problem they both identify (e.g. not making enough revenue; poor community; etc.) – I’ve already lined up partnerships with national and regional newspapers, broadcasters and startups in the UK and internationally: effectively the student acts as a consultant, with the class as a whole sharing knowledge and experience.

Alongside that they will continue to explore more newsgathering, production and distribution, exploring areas such as computer assisted reporting, user generated content, multimedia and interactivity. They may, for example, conduct an investigation that produces particularly deep, engaging and distributed content and conversation.

The final stage is MA by Project – either individually or as a group, students make a business case for a startup or offshoot, research it, build it, run it and bid for funding.

By the time they leave the course, graduates should not be going into the industry at entry level (after all, who is recruiting these days?), but at a more senior, strategic level – or, equally likely, to establish startups themselves. I’m hoping these are the people who are going to save journalism.

At the moment all these plans are in draft form. I am hoping this will be a course without walls, responding to ideas from industry and evolving as a result. Which is why I’m asking for your input now: what would you like to see included in an MA Online Journalism? The BJTC’s Steve Harris has mentioned voice training, media law and ethics. The BBC’s Peter Horrocks has suggested programming and design skills. You may agree or disagree.

Let’s get a conversation going.

Announcing JEEcamp09 – an unconference for journalism experimenters

JEEcamp09

JEEcamp09

On Friday May 8 2009 I’ll be hosting JEEcamp09 – an unconference (or barcamp) for journalism experimenters.

Last year’s JEEcamp was great. This year we’re doing it all again, but with some cute ideas to stir things up.

These include: 

  • Open mic for business models for news: Attendees are invited to explain how they think news can support itself online. 5 min limit.
  • Speed networkingattendees get a minute each with a random other attendee to swap cards and explain what they do.
  • Musical chairs panel discussion: Begins as a standard panel discussion – but once a panel member has responded to a question, they are replaced by someone else in the ‘audience’, raffle-style.

And there will be other ideas as we go along. If you have any other ideas for stirring up the traditional format, I’d love to hear them.

The day will be opened by Kyle Macrae, the man behind one of the original new media journalism startups, Scoopt. That was sold to Getty in 2007, who closed it down last month. Kyle will be talking about his experiences of getting Scoopt off the ground, and why he thinks Getty failed to make it viable.

After that, the really interesting stuff is in the heads of the attendees, how we – and you – get it out. 

You can get tickets at http://jeecamp09.eventbrite.com/ - and add your comments below as to how you’d like this to pan out.

Are these the biggest moments in journalism-blogging history?

Here’s another one for that book I’m working on – I’m trying to think: what have been the most significant events in the history of journalism blogging?

Here’s what I have so far (thanks Mark Jones and Nigel Barlow):

What have I missed? This is a horribly Anglo-American list, too, so I’d particularly welcome similar moments from other countries.