Getting down to cases: How we’re helping fuel journalism innovation

Posted on June 08, 2011 by Janet Coats

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post here about what I’ve learned about the life cycle of my work here at The Patterson Foundation.

When I first started working with the New Media Journalism Initiative in November 2009, we began with a blank sheet of paper. Debra Jacobs, TPF’s president and CEO, gave me only two boundaries: focus on emerging digital media and focus on work that has innovation at its core.

Those are pretty wide boundaries; you can fit Montana between them. It was an exciting prospect, especially after spending several years focused on newsroom cost-cutting.

So I started to work with a question: What do innovators need most to support and sustain their work?

I asked this question a lot during my first six months of work. I asked it of entrepreneurs and educators, of other foundations focused on supporting journalism, of practitioners in all phases of the craft. The answer always came down to two things.

Innovators, I heard, need to be able to connect with each other, to solve common problems and share better practices. They need help developing smart networks and networking strategies to enable them to do this efficiently.

Of course, the subject innovators most want to network about is sustainability of their work. The search for business, community engagement and journalism models that will ensure their work has the traction and financial resources it needs to succeed preoccupies everyone in this space.

In the last year, we’ve been listening to lots and lots of innovators and entrepreneurs and testing some of the theories we’ve formed from all that listening. Now, we are moving out of our inquiry, discovery, development and testing phases and into implementation of our projects.

We’re working on two projects. One of them has at its core the need to understand and develop efficient networks. The other has at its core the need to develop, test and implement sustainability strategies. But each project touches in some way on these two, fundamental needs for journalism’s innovators.

In my upcoming blog posts, I’m going to move out of the general discussion of our work and start sharing more specifics of what we’re working on and why. In my next post, I will start by bringing you up to date on a project I’ve mentioned before: the Journalism Accelerator.

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