Breaking the Mold: Innovative Ideas for the Future of Journalism

One of the key underlying questions at a number of sessions at today’s start of a  four-day annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Denver was:

How can we save journalism?

The answer from Prof Larry Dailey, multimedia guru at U. of Nevada -Reno speaking on a panel called Breaking the Mold, was simple:

Forget about it.  Instead, think about ways to save the roles journalism has played in democracy.

Dailey, who must be among the first j profs in the country to teach a journalism class in Innovation, touted Harvard prof Clay Christensen’s ideas about disruptive innovation, popularized in The Innovator’s Dilemma, as a lens for considering the journalism industry’s decline.

Successful businesses, driven by stockholder’s demands, stick with routines and the competencies developed to efficiently carry them out, and this inevitably leads to inflexibility and failure as the nimble innovator races between their legs, so to speak.  Think music industry and Napster.

What the journalist of the future needs, then, is an ability to think creatively, to come up with new ideas, to learn to start out with what Dailey dubs “a crappy prototype” that might lead to a real innovation — or might not.

Other panelists included:

Mississippi’s Samir Husni “Mr Magazine” who emphasized creating experiences for audiences, citing examples from magazine covers that ranged from scratch and sniff to 3D to an audience favorite: peel the clothes from a cover boy. (Doesn’t take much to excite a bunch of middle-aged professors.)

Minnesota’s Nora Paul who discussed their Knight News Challenge-funded  project that aimed to create an online game about Ethanol to see if a play format would attract and better inform audiences.  The answer: um, not really.  Er, sounds like idea that ran out of gas?

Ball State’s Jennifer George-Palilonis discussed cross-campus projects pulling together multiple departments and colleges to create innovative online media and mobile apps.

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2 thoughts on “Breaking the Mold: Innovative Ideas for the Future of Journalism

  1. Journalism doesn’t need to be saved. The demand for content is huge, and yes some of it is trivial but some of it is quite good. I think the model is changing, so being nimble is essential to the survival of any information enterprise.

    The fundamentals of journalism education provide an excellent analytical skillset that can be applied in a multitude of creative ways. We just have to let go of the notion that the institution of journalism is a brick-n-mortar silo. This is the key: “Instead, think about ways to save the roles journalism has played in democracy.”

    The fear that we will sacrifice quality and integrity if we leave the silo is unfounded. The online audience for the most part is adept at sniffing out bull$**t and the web offers a much broader circulation potential if the content is good and packaged well.

    Journalism is far from dead, because we are much more than just news re-makers…

  2. Actually, I’ve felt more optimistic about the profession lately than I have in a very long time. There are so many interesting iterations going on right now.

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