Putting Feet on the Streets for Journalism

So, how do we keep journalism thriving? Make sure that journalists thrive.

To help journalists thrive, the Reynolds Journalism Institute is hosting a one-day Talkfest on Jan. 21, 2009, called “Putting Feet on the Streets for Journalism.” The participants’ challenge: to develop plans for the RJI Collaboratory, a newsshoes organization incubator.

This is why: In 2008, traditional news organizations continued to shrink or close their doors. They laid off more than 15,000 journalists, resulting in a significant loss of good journalism so vital to U.S. citizens and our democracy. Dozens of communities now have little or no coverage of their local health issues, their local environment, or their local government. Some no longer have reporters, no journalism at all in their communities.

That trend is likely to accelerate in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Web continues to provide fertile ground for new social/news/information organizations, hundreds of which have appeared over the last few years and are thriving, including MaxPreps.com, MinnPost, WestSeattleblog.com, TheKnot.com, Huffington Post, BlogHer, CSTV.com (which is now part of CBSSportsline.com), the St. Louis Beacon, and Marketwatch.

There’s a need for hundreds, perhaps thousands, more

We think an RJI Collaboratory could provide resources and knowledge on how to start effective and successful Web-based news organizations. Those who could benefit from the news organization incubator are entrepreneurial journalists and existing news organizations that are undertaking the transformational strategies necessary to adapt to a Webcentric world

These are some of the things we’d like to figure out that day:

  • What does a news organization incubator do exactly? We know it should provide advertising strategies and techniques, technology services, business planning, Web shell (information architecture ) and design services, and ethics guidelines. But what else? And how does it provide this guidance and these services?
  • What roles can other colleges and departments of the University of Missouri play in a news organization incubator? Could computer science students develop online services for entrepreneurial journalists? Could business school students work with entrepreneurial journalists to develop robust organizations?
  • What could the RJI Collaboratory do in the first year? The second year? The third year?
  • What does a news organization incubator need to get started?
  • Does a news organization incubator derive funding from the organizations it nurtures? If so, how? If the news organization incubator is part of the university, what is the incubator’s intellectual property policy?
  • How does the news organization incubator develop partnerships with other centers or journalism schools?
  • How does the news organization incubator develop partnerships with organizations that might be interested in funding start-ups?

If you’re interested in attending, send me an email – jstevens at mmjourno dot com. We’re limiting the in-person attendance to 60 people. It’s free. You just have to get yourself to Columbia, MO. We’ll also be running an Adobe Connect virtual room, which can handle 100 people. If you’d like to attend virtually, also let me know.

elecfoot[This is the three-foot-long “Electric Light Shoe”, part of an advertising campaign put together by FOC in Amsterdam for ASICS Onitsuka Tigers shoes. A city’s in the shoe. It seemed appropriate, as did the jumble of tiny electric light shoes in the image above. All those entrepreneurial journalists’ shoes that need filling…..]


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  1. […] Putting Feet on the Streets for Journalism […]

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