Entrepreneurial journalism workshop brings together professors, professionals

BuzzMachine blogger Jeff Jarvis spoke at the Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute about the current form of journalism and its evolution away from storytelling. (Annika Cline/DD)

The Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute brought university professors together to the Walter Cronkite School to discuss practices, tools and ideas to teach entrepreneurial journalism.

The five-day workshop assembled 15 university professors who will teach entrepreneurial journalism classes in 2013, Cronkite School’s Outreach Director Liz Smith said.

Dan Gillmor, director of the event and founder of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, invited Google news and social products head Richard Gingras and Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism director and BuzzMachine blogger Jeff Jarvis to speak at the workshop on Thursday, Jan. 3.

“They are two of the most interesting, forward-thinking people I know and they have both been around a long time in the news and information world,” Gillmor said. “They have not just an insightful view of the future, but a real depth to back it up with.”

The subject of their discussions was entrepreneurial journalism — in essence, new and innovative journalism businesses.

After a 10-minute delay, when Jarvis and Gingras compared their phones, the talks began in the Cronkite Theater. The Google employee was aided by a tablet; the journalism professor had a tiny notebook. Naturally in a discussion about innovation, the auditorium abounded with laptops and tablets.

Gingras covered four main points: the information ecosystem, changing the news product architecture, transformation and attitude. He emphasized that everything about journalism needs to change, including how it is taught.

“When I detect someone in their journalism school who is not excited about the changes going on in news,” Gingras said, “I kind of want to say, … ‘Go do something else because, frankly, you’re not doing right by your students.’”

Google news and social products head Richard Gingras spoke about the changes that need to occur in the journalism field, particularly with how it is taught. (Annika Cline/DD)

After Gingras had his say, Jarvis spoke about reinventing the form, relationship and business model of journalism and his entrepreneurial journalism graduate school at City University of New York.

“When we did a job search recently, every single one of our … would-be professors who came and sat at our table of judgment said as a presumption as a matter of what we do, ‘Well, we’re storytellers, right?’” Jarvis said. “And they all saluted that flag raised up on the pole. And of course I, being the asshole in the room, was thinking, ‘No.’”

Jarvis argued that there is more to journalism than storytelling. It is not a content provider, but a service provider. The difference is in filling something versus accomplishing something, respectively.

He described journalism with a term he overheard Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg say — eloquent organization.

“Journalism is helping a community organize its knowledge so it can better organize itself,” Jarvis said. “Put that in parentheses, right?”

Afterward, Gillmor led an audience discussion with Gingras and Jarvis.

This talk was the workshop’s only public event. With the quality of both Gingras and Jarvis, Gillmor said he felt the event should be open to the public.

Graduate student and Cronkite professor Brian Rackham said he had read articles and books by Gillmor, Gingras and Jarvis.

“These are three of the premier thinkers in the world, I think, on the future of journalism and it was fascinating to get their perspectives,” Rackham said.

After reading Gillmor’s tweet about the event, graduate student Andrew Knochel decided to attend. He said he learned a lot and many interesting questions and ideas were raised.

Dean of the Walter Cronkite School and vice provost for the Downtown campus Christopher Callahan and the Scripps Howard Foundation both wanted this event to happen, Gillmor said, so they asked Gillmor to set it up.

“If you’re going to change journalism education, this is really the genesis for that change,” Gingras said.

The workshop is in its second year and both Gingras and Jarvis spoke at last year’s workshop.

“The proof of the pudding, I guess, is in a couple of years how many courses these folks have taught to how many students,” Jarvis said.

Contact the reporter at danika.worthington@asu.edu