If ever there was a sign that media entrepreneurship has come of age in journalism and communication curricula, the attendees of the Association for Educators of Journalism and Mass Communication provided it. By last week’s end, two of the organization’s divisions were jockeying to add entrepreneurship to their wheelhouse.
Educators from around the world gathered in Montreal from August 5-10 en masse at two key events highlighting media entrepreneurship activity in schools across the country – the J-Lab breakfast panel on media entrepreneurship, where I was joined by Dan Pacheco of Syracuse University, Jeremy Caplan at City University of New York and Amy Eisman at American University and the Arizona State University panel on Wednesday, which included me, Rosental Alves at University of Texas at Austin, Rachele Kanigel of San Francisco State University and Ed Madison at University of Oregon. Between the two sessions, more than 100 attendees learned about innovations across higher education, including the master’s in media entrepreneurship program at American University, new business development classes and their structure at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and co-curricular activities like the Scripps Innovation Challenge at Ohio University.
The popularity of the AEJMC events comes on the heels of a media entrepreneurship summit at CUNY in New York City on July 10 where more than than 50 educators, funders and professionals discussed evolving curricula and activities that help spur innovation on campuses.
The ‘Squishy’ Concept of teaching to think entrepreneurially
At AEJMC, Paul Parsons, dean of the school of communications at Elon University, sat in on the J-Lab breakfast. He acknowledged that few if any students today will do what he did – have a long career with an established media company in a slow media environment.
“With change sweeping so ferociously through journalism, those of us in universities need to better prepare students to think entrepreneurially. This can be a squishy concept, so I’m attending sessions to learn from educators who are on the cutting-edge in guiding students to both think and act in entrepreneurial ways.”
He added: “At the sessions, I appreciated hearing that a program needs a faculty champion for entrepreneurship. In addition, we ought to create closer partnerships with business schools because a good journalism idea paired with good content also needs a good business model to succeed.”
Kanigel, a speaker on the ASU panel, said educators must address the changing media ecosystem and prepare their students for it.
“We don’t know what we are preparing students for — some will work with legacy media, others are working for startup companies and freelancing,” she said. “This way of thinking is important for all of them.”
At the University of Oregon, Madison says students spend 10 weeks on new business development and present their ideas to business leaders.
“Students are stepping outside of the bubble of working for businesses to create for themselves,” he said to the ASU audience. “Students come away with a better sense of their value and how their creativity can be used in other ways.”
More than a buzzword
For educators in this area, media entrepreneurship is not just the new buzzword of the day, but a mindset that will help innovate within and outside of communication industries. Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, participated in both the CUNY Summit and AEJMC events.
“I was pleased to see both at AEJMC and at the summit that entrepreneurial journalism has become a discipline widely adopted in journalism schools around the country. I was impressed with the number of colleagues who said at AEJMC that they are considering to teach entrepreneurial journalism or to include it on the journalism classes they are already teaching,” Alves said. “Journalism education cannot afford to recycle best practices of an industry in crisis in the midst of the digital revolution.”
Jeremy Caplan coordinated the CUNY summit and spoke as a panelist at the J-Lab breakfast in Montreal. He said that he and Jeff Jarvis wanted to help connect educators at the forefront of teaching this subject matter.
“Many of us are so focused on launching and running new programs and teaching that we don’t often have a chance to connect with others teaching related subjects around the country and across the globe,” he said. “We want to create a thread of connection to help spark collaboration between entrepreneurial journalism educators.”
Meredith Broussard, an assistant professor journalism at Temple University, is exploring media entrepreneurship within her courses and attended the CUNY summit.
“It was powerful to have so many entrepreneurial journalism scholars and practitioners in the same room. The event generated a lot of positive energy and a lot of great ideas for teaching.”
Caplan said he was surprised at the extent to which so many programs are taking shape independently on campuses across the country.
“When we launched the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism in 2010, there was very little activity in this arena,” he said. “Now the field appears to be growing significantly.”
Barrett Ferrier, Michelle. “Media Entrepreneurship: Curriculum Development and Faculty Perceptions of What Students Should Know,” doi: 10.1177/1077695813494833, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, September 2013 vol. 68 no. 3 222-241: http://jmc.sagepub.com/content/68/3/222.short
Media Entrepreneurship Facebook Group (Broad group including practitioners and innovation experts): https://www.facebook.com/groups/245971748910865/
Media Entrepreneurship Course Wiki (Started by ASU Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute alum): http://media-entrepreneurship-course-development.wikispaces.com
Google Plus Online Discussion Group (Invitation only group focused on journalism educators): https://plus.google.com/communities/102812520012664065045
Dr. Michelle Ferrier is associate dean for innovation at the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University, where she leads media entrepreneurship efforts both inside and outside the classroom. She is a digital content architect with 30 years experience in media entrepreneurship. She joined the launch team of NEAOnline, a partnership with AOL in 1991, developed a pioneering online student news portal at Emory & Henry College in 2001, taught her first media entrepreneurship course in 2002, created MyTopiaCafe.com, an online community portal for the Daytona Beach News-Journal in 2007 and created two startup events called Create or Die (2010, 2011) for media founders of color. She is an entrepreneur in hyperlocal online news publishing as founder of Highlands Family (2001) and LocallyGrownNews.com (2010). As a research associate at the University of Central Florida in 2006, she helped architect a new digital media curriculum for 2- and 4-year colleges and universities and most recently published a key journal article defining media entrepreneurship skills and curriculum initiatives around the world.