Tuesday, March 2, 2010

News21 conference at ASU

This past weekend I was invited to take part in the News21 conference on innovative journalism. It was the first gathering of top journalism students from around the country who will be participating in a 10-week summer program at 8 "host schools". For those of you who don't know, I'm headed to College Park, Maryland to focus on developing multimedia, as well as environmental investigative reporting on the failing Chesapeake Bay. The purpose of the program is to experiment with innovative ways of presenting stories to the public in the hopes of finding a remedy to the downward spiral of the journalism industry. For two days, about 40 or so of us met at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in Phoenix, AZ, to converse about our summer projects and brainstorm possible methods of news media dissemination. News21, which called this event our "spring training", featured such speakers as Amy Webb, the CEO of Webbmedia Group, Chris Callahan, Dean of the Cronkite School of Journalism, Gabriel Dance, multimedia producer for the New York Time, Rob Curley, executive editor of Greenspun Interactive for the Las Vegas Sun, and many others.

Some presentations were good, others not so good, but when it was all said and done I walked away from Phoenix with a renovated and rejuvenated outlook towards the future of journalism. Before this weekend, I was mostly just scared. The outlook was bleak. As a student in the journalism field, we get a lot of "I don't know" when we try to probe our professors as to where this industry is headed. Graduating into uncertainty was a frightening concept, and it left me with a wavering confidence in the direction I was headed.

However, after listening to these various speakers and conversing with graduate and undergraduate students from different journalism schools, hearing new ideas and feeling a sense of determination to innovate really revamped my feelings. The dismayed feeling I had towards the static progression of journalism was shaken up by these forward thinkers. The opportunity to be an entrepreneur in the industry that one enjoys, in my opinion, is exponentially better than just taking part in it. We are at a pivotal time where either we do nothing and continue to demise, or find it within ourselves to break away from the established "norms" of Journalism.

While the essence of journalism, i.e. great storytelling, has not changed and should not change, we must wipe clean the slate that contains the rules of "publication". Engaging the reader/viewer is the foundation of surviving as a business. In a utopic journalistic world, all we would have to do is produce great journalism - society would then claw hand over fist to ingest our words and photos with little or no promotion or "incentive". Unfortunately, in the age of social media, digital mobility, and lack of public interest, it doesn't work that way. We cannot rely upon the old way of dissemination. It is time to try new things, embrace failure, and create journalism that our audience can engage in.

Rob Curley said something that hit really hard when he was showing us some great innovation on the Las vegas Sun's website. He said "When we stopped doing journalism to impress journalism professors, our hits increased over 10 million." Later he added that the most close minded journalists are the ones that just graduated. Have we been indoctrinated, as students, into a state of mind where the drive to innovate is wasted on the current model, instead of looking outside the box? I wonder.
I apologize for ranting. News21 ignited a spark for me and I think it is an issue that needs to be addressed in the best interests of our industry. Now I give you pictures, because everybody loves pictures. 2 shots from ASU's J-school.

Photos © 2010 Jason Lenhart

1 comment:

anguangxi said...

Congradulations! We are waiting for the more good news from you!