Educational Centers for Journalism Experiments

    by Mark Glaser
    June 23, 2008

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    Will print newspapers exist in 10 years? How will we fund investigative journalism in the future? How can journalists learn to do reporting, moderating communities, filtering content, building Google Maps and all the other technical and online duties they will need to know?

    These Big Questions are being asked at numerous “future of journalism” conferences seemingly every week. (This week it’s the Carnegie-Knight Conference on the Future of Journalism.) But what is going on beyond just meeting, networking and talking about solutions to the hard problems of transition from old to new media? There are also a handful of new “laboratories” at educational institutions that are gearing up to answer the same questions about the future of journalism.

    I’ve started a list of some of the ones that have been recently announced, and invite you to add to this list with others — especially overseas.


    Educational Centers and Incubators for New Journalism

    Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education

    This initiative is now more than three years old. It isn’t about the creation of an educational center, per se, but includes five universities in its News21 incubators that train students to do traditional and new media reports. I have covered the work of News21 in MediaShift reports here and here.

    The Tow Center for Journalistic Innovation at CUNY


    Just announced today, this new Center at the City University of New York just got a $3 million grant from the Tow Foundation to “study new business models for journalism and create an incubator to help develop new journalistic products and services using Internet technologies.”

    A money quote taken from the press release announcing the new Center:

    “Universities often do R&D for industry,” says Stephen B. Shepard, Dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and former editor of BusinessWeek. “There’s no reason journalism schools can’t do the same for our profession.”

    Center for Future of Civic Media

    Started a year ago as part of the Knight News Challenge, the Center is a joint project of the MIT Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies Program. The idea is to “create technical and social systems for sharing, prioritizing, organizing, and acting on information. These include developing new technologies that support and foster civic media and political action; serving as an international resource for the study and analysis of civic media; and coordinating community-based test beds both in the United States and internationally.” I got to see some of the projects-in-process at the Center at a recent conference at MIT.

    Investigative Reporting Workshop

    This new Workshop was recently announced by the American University School of Communication, and will be led by non-profit investigative journalism guru Charles Lewis, who previously founded and ran the Center for Public Integrity. The Workshop will do long-form investigative work by professional journalists, faculty and students, while also trying to find new business models to support investigative journalism. You can read an in-depth Q&A with Lewis on MediaShift here.

    Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI)

    Funded by the foundation of media magnate Don Reynolds, this Institute at the University of Missouri at Columbia will dedicate its new building in September. RJI’s site says the building will have “state-of-the-art resources to test and demonstrate new technologies, experiment with convergence news production and delivery systems, and conduct real-time and virtual seminars and conferences.”

    [Note: I participated in a roundtable discussion for RJI in New York.]

    New Media Innovation Lab

    At Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Lab was launched in 2006 by former BET executive Retha Hill. Its goal is to help develop multimedia applications for media companies. So far, it has helped Gannett “research the news consumption habits of young people and develop applications conducive to reaching this audience,” according to a news release at ASU’s site. The Lab is set to move into the new Cronkite building in downtown Phoenix this summer.

    Thanks to Dan Gillmor for suggesting this addition.

    Please let me know of other similar centers for journalism innovation that you know about — you can mention them either in the comments below or using the Feedback Form that goes directly to my email in-box. I’ll add them to the list with a credit to you.

    My hope is that these various centers will do more than simply spend huge sums of money on buildings and make big pronouncements. If they can help change the old mindset at educational institutions, with students, with faculty — and with the larger media business at large — then they will have proven their worth.

    Tagged: digital journalist journalism newspapers

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