Revisiting a lofty J‑school initiative

Over at his MediaShift site, Mark Glaser continues to crank out quality online journalism, including today’s great piece on whatever happened to the experiment in “new” journalism that was launched a year ago by five major journalism grad schools. The schools put together $6 million to fund — over three years — the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education.

Glaser does a masterful job of taking us through what the initiative has accomplished and concludes that it isn’t much in the way of “new.” And isn’t this always the case when institutional incumbents are threatened by a real disruption?

Here’s the money graph:

So why not take the $6 million and create real new-media incubator businesses? Stanford University helped create Yahoo and Google, but those companies didn’t come from the journalism school. Perhaps the journalism schools could team with computer programming departments to create hybrid sites that combine the best technology of sites such as Digg or YouTube with the editorial standards that come from journalism.
This is excellent thinking and something the initiative would be well advised to embrace, although it’s not likely. The “why not” that Mark poses really IS the question. Why not? Because institutional thinking doesn’t have a seat at the new table, that’s why. And rightly so, for at core, the disruption exists due to the failings of the institution, and who’s going to admit that when their salary and pension are at stake?

For all the good that J‑schools do and all the wonderful people who’ve dedicated their lives to training the young people within the ivory walls, it simply isn’t enough in the face of what’s confronting the institution today. If the “professionalism” that these institutions wish to protect is really that important, then Mark’s advice ceases to be advice and becomes, instead, a mandate.

News IS a conversation, but who starts the conversation? That, I believe, is the role of the new “press” in our culture and where journalism education should really begin.


  1. Rich Gordon says

    As Jeff noted in his post about this same paragraph: The graduate program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism has publishing projects in newspapers, magazines and new media. In these classes, students develop new publications (print and/or Web) including content, design, marketing, strategy and business plan.

    The Medill Media Management Project, in particular, produced work that led directly to the launch of X new products in the past four years:
    * MKE, a Web site and weekly tabloid for 20somethings in Milwaukee;
    * YourMom, a Web site (and, for a year, a print magazine) for teenagers in the Quad Cities area straddling the Illinois/Iowa border
    * SkokieTalk, a Web site for community information-sharing operated by the Skokie, Illinois, library
    * Beep, a Web site and print tabloid for 20somethings in the sprawling Chicago suburbs

    Students in this class have had real-world entrepreneurial experience.

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