American University to Offer Master’s in News Entrepreneurship

    by A. Adam Glenn
    January 26, 2012
    American University's School of Communications has been pushing digital skills, and now will offer a master's in news entrepreneurship as well. Image courtesy of Sidewalk Flying of Flickr.

    As debris from the firewall that once separated journalism from the business of journalism continues to fly, a new educational landscape is developing, one that supports and trains those straddling the line.

    American University is the latest to add to that, expecting soon to launch a full-fledged graduate degree in news entrepreneurship.

    Participants [in the AU program] build, package, then pitch their projects to industry leaders or venture capitalists, ultimately for real funding."

    The faculty at the Washington, D.C.-based AU’s School of Communications has OK’d a new 10-course, 20-month Master’s in Media Entrepreneurship, and expects formal approval from the university this spring. Kickoff would be next fall.


    ‘A Whole New Mindset’

    Half of the program’s dozen or so initial participants are expected to be journalists. But by creating a nights-and-weekends program targeting mid-career professionals, AU hopes to draw a mix of innovators from Washington’s entrepreneurial community.

    Among the possible players would be media investors, consultants, publishers and others in the tech startup crowd, as well as executive-level managers from media, public relations and the NGO world.

    “It’s a whole new mindset,” said AU’s Amy Eisman, who will be the new program’s director. “This is a town where everyone is looking to move information from one place to another … This gives a lot of people a place to find a home for their ideas.”


    Biz School Bent, J School Rent

    The school has been testing the waters for several years with entrepreneurially focused media courses taught by faculty like Digital First’s Jim Brady and Steve Buttry, PBS.org Tom Davidson, former Gannett sales director Bill Day, longtime digital content exec Howard Parnell, and Lynette Clemetson, founding managing editor of the Washington Post’s TheRoot.com. Jan Schaffer of J-Lab, a longtime incubator for news entrepreneurs, worked closely with Eisman in designing the program and will teach the opening seminar.

    The program also builds on the success AU has had with other weekend programs aimed at working stiffs, including a decade-plus-long weekend M.A. program in interactive journalism.

    [Disclosure: AU has been a sponsor for PBS MediaShift, promoting its M.A. program.]

    There’s a collaborative, cross-school feel to it, with four of the 10 courses being taught through AU’s Kogod School of Business, with faculty who run its entrepreneurial program. They’ll teach core courses for the new masters that focus on entrepreneurship, management, finance, marketing, media law and technology management.

    Where the Rubber Hits the Road


    Amy Eisman


    Several new courses are being developed for the program as well, Eisman said. One will focus on managing media technology systems — from software to agile development to how to manage projects.

    Another course will spotlight how to manage audiences — that is, how to identify, measure and monetize them.

    There will also be a “capstone” course where “the rubber hits the road,” Eisman said. Participants build, package, then pitch their projects to industry leaders or venture capitalists, ultimately for real funding.

    Leg Up In World of Numbers

    The AU master’s program follows a plethora of earlier entrepreneurial journalism training initiatives that aim to help prepare journalists for a world of startups and new business ventures, where they’ll need to have a handle on the figures to go along with their facts.

    Digital media entrepreneurship courses are offered at Stanford University and University of Maryland, among others, while training programs can be found at the Knight Digital Media Center at USC and Poynter, and centers for digital media entrepreneurship at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School and Arizona State’s Cronkite School. And that’s just part of the list.

    But a big splash in the field was made last year by CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, when it piloted a program that has since become the nation’s first entrepreneurial journalism master’s program. [Disclosure: I teach at CUNY, but have no direct involvement in its entrepreneurial journalism initiatives.]

    ‘The More Programs the Better’


    CUNY’s Jeremy Caplan


    The CUNY program runs four semesters, with entrepreneurially focused courses grouped into a five-class intensive final semester so mid-career journalists can participate in a certificate version as well.

    The full program launches this month. Three participants, newly minted journalism grads with projects to nurture, will get the entrepreneurial masters. Another dozen — mostly career journalists, with some media managers and tech startup survivors — will get the certificate.

    Jeremy Caplan, education director of the program, said last winter’s pilot, with 10 participants, yielded some useful lessons, among them the need to tap more directly into the wealth of New York’s startup culture.

    And while a number of student projects last year managed to get seed funding, mostly through grants, the school also recognized the need to help students hone their project pitches more before they present to a panel of venture capitalists, journalists and other experts.

    Caplan has his eye on the AU program, too. “It’ll be interesting to see the direction that program takes,” he noted. “From our perspective, the more programs the better, and we’re excited to see a flourishing of interest in the subject.”

    A. Adam Glenn is associate professor, interactive, at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and a longtime digital journalist and media consultant. Connect with him on Facebook or LinkedIn, and follow his Twitter feed. This monthly column draws liberally from conversations about digital journalism teaching practices on the online educators Facebook group of the Online News Association. The ONA Facebook group is currently a closed group but you can view ongoing conversations (see our group Q&A tracker), or join in via ONA membership.

    Tagged: american university cuny curriculum entrepreneurial journalism entrepreneurship teaching and technology teaching online journalism

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