A New Media Journey

Posted on August 26, 2010 by The Patterson Foundation

The New Media Journalism Initiative began its journey in fall 2009 with a few important stars to guide us.

We knew that we wanted the initiative to honor the Patterson legacy of innovation in new media and technology. Beginning with Joseph Medill's stewardship of the Chicago Tribune and continuing through early investments in radio, television and online media, the family has always supported journalism innovation.

We knew that we wanted to support commitment to journalism at a local level.

And we knew that we wanted to support the kind of journalism that enables democracy and helps people uphold their civic responsibilities.

With those key points in mind, we set out to discover where The Patterson Foundation could create momentum for journalism innovation by leveraging emerging promising practices and building connection among those exploring the new frontiers of the craft.

  • November 2009: A group of journalism thought-leaders gather at The Patterson Foundation to help us begin framing our work. This group includes respected leaders from existing news organizations, from foundations that work in journalism, from journalism schools and from journalism start-ups.

Our thought leaders leave us with this important message: Journalism is in a state of disruption. There is tremendous innovation happening, but it is all very chaotic. To create momentum, innovators need to be able to see each other more clearly and share their insights in real time.

  • January through April 2010: New Media Journalism Initiative Manager Janet Coats interviews more than 60 thought-leaders in journalism as part of an assessment of needs and gaps in efforts to enable innovation. Her journey includes visits to the journalism programs at New York University, Columbia University, City University of New York and the University of Missouri, as well as interviews with journalism educators at the University of Southern California.

These interviews reinforce the idea that there is a need for an innovators' network, to create real-time visibility into new methods and approaches in the areas of journalism craft, community connection and business models.

  • March 2010: An interview with Michele McLellan, then serving a fellowship at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, reveals her work in identifying promising entrepreneurial journalism sites. These entrepreneurs are exploring new ways of serving community information needs in a digital world, outside of traditional news organizations.

The needs of this group provide important insight into ways that innovators might benefit from more direct connection.

  • April 2010: Coats is invited to the University of Missouri School of Journalism for a gathering at the school's Reynolds Journalism Institute. This gathering is focused on hearing from past, present and incoming Reynolds Fellows - journalism practitioners and educators who are studying a wide range of innovative efforts.

At this event, Coats meets Lisa Skube, a 2010-11 Reynolds Fellow whose project is focused on creating a network for innovators.

  • May 2010: Coats agrees to work with Reynolds Fellow Michele McLellan on her effort to bring journalism entrepreneurs together in a workshop to focus on their common concerns and possible solutions. The conference, called Block by Block, is scheduled for September 2010. The Patterson Foundation provides financial support in the form of travel scholarships for entrepreneurs to attend the event.
  • June 2010: After a series of emails and phone conversations about their work, Coats and Skube agree to meet at the University of Missouri for a 3-day work session to determine if their projects are compatible and whether they should work together.

During their meeting at Missouri, Coats and Skube combine their thinking to develop a framework for a real-time, digital innovation network under the working title of The Journalism Accelerator.

  • June - July 2010: Coats enters discussions with Pam Johnson, executive director of the Reynolds Journalism Institute and Dean Mills, dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

They agree in principle to the idea that Patterson will work will Reynolds Fellow Skube to move the Journalism Accelerator from an idea to a reality during the coming academic year.

  • July 2010: Coats and Skube conduct a work session in at Skube's home base in Portland, Ore., meeting with Skube's Web design and technology partners to develop a framework for The Journalism Accelerator's Web interface.

These meetings focus less on Website design and more on the needs of journalism innovators and how the Accelerator can meet those needs in a real-time, transparent and engaging way.

  • September 2010: Coats and Skube will meet with graduate students at the University of Missouri to talk about ways their research can help provide content and meaning for the Journalism Accelerator.

To come: the Block by Block conference in September, which will provide important new insight into innovators' needs.

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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