CUNY's Entrepreneurial Journalism: Partially Old Wine in a New Bottle, and Not Quite Thirst-Quenching, but Still a Good Drink

By Claussen, Dane S. | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

CUNY's Entrepreneurial Journalism: Partially Old Wine in a New Bottle, and Not Quite Thirst-Quenching, but Still a Good Drink


Claussen, Dane S., Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


In this issue, two British scholars present a study, part of which is about how and whether U.K. journalism students associate journalistic work with entrepreneurship. They, and others in the United Kingdom, have been thinking, and acting, for several years on the notion that journalism careers going forward will consist of regularly, frequently, or always working on a temporary and/or part-time basis - what we used to call freelancing, but what is now increasingly referred to as entrepreneurial journalism. (Those interested in relevant, previously published research might want to consult Astrid Gynnild's May 2005 article in NORDICOM Review, titled, "Winner Takes It All: Freelance Journalism on the Global Communication Market"; Kathleen M. Ryan's October 2009 article in Journalism, "The Performative Journalist"; and, most relevantly, "An Education for Independence," by David Baines and Ciara Kennedy, in the February 2010 issue Journalism Practice.)

What probably most journalism professors in the United States and surely nearly all others around the world don't know is that in July 2010, the Graduate School of Journalism at City University of New York (CUNY) announced that it was going to launch an "Entrepreneurial Journalism" program, and then in winter 2011, it started the new program. Back in July, CUNY journalism Dean Stephen B. Shepard announced, in part:

Working with our faculty, we plan to design and launch a program in entrepreneurial journalism - providing students with the education and research tools needed to build a sustainable future for journalism. The proposed program would add a fourth semester for select students - with new courses, workshops, research, and apprenticeships - earning graduates, upon approval of the New York State Education Department, an M.A. degree in Entrepreneurial Journalism.

For example, students might take courses in emerging business models for news, new technologies for journalism, hyperlocal ventures, management of new media, or advanced uses of social media. They might develop new products in a course on entrepreneurial journalism. Or work in local neighborhoods to help people report on their own communities.

Training our own students is just the beginning. We need research to find the economic models that will replace the financial underpinnings that no longer work, and new products to reach new audiences in new ways. So we will expand beyond our pioneering work last year for the Knight Foundation that examined innovative financing models for local news. We will create a more ambitious incubator to provide seed money and investment for promising new journalistic ideas.

All these efforts build on work we've already started. From the get-go, Professor Jeff Jarvis, who heads our interactive program, has been teaching an entrepreneurial course in which students develop a journalistic product or service, including a basic business plan. Their efforts are judged by a jury of venture capitalists, media executives, and editors. The jury awards seed money, supplied so far by the McCormick Foundation, to the best ideas. The result: We now have seven recent graduates incubating their ideas at the J-School.

Another pioneering project: a hyperlocal news site .....

In mid-February, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism was announcing what it had put together in the meantime and had launched, saying in part:

The School opened the courses to 11 students, alumni, and mid-career professionals who want to become involved in the developing field of entrepreneurial journalism. The classes include three CUNY J-School alumni along with postgraduate students from New York, Denmark, Cameroon, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka. More than 60 people sought admittance to the courses.

Creation of the five courses was among the first tasks of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, established last fall with $6 million from The Tow Foundation and the John S.

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