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Common Language Project’s Jessica Partnow on Teaching Entrepreneurship

Jessica Partnow

Jessica Partnow

An interview with Common Language Project’s Jessica Partnow by JA’s Tram Whitehurst.

Jessica Partnow is the executive director of the Common Language Project, a nonprofit multi media journalism organization, where she reports and leads administration and organizational development.

“You hear the term entrepreneurial journalism and immediately think about money,” Partnow said. “But it is more about teaching the skills to be able to do everything in the process on your own.”

In addition to leading the Common Language Project, Partnow teaches a course on entrepreneurial journalism at the University of Washington.

Students learn to pitch story ideas, report for multimedia and use digital storytelling techniques, and work in teams to produce story packages published by news sources affiliated with Next Door Media, a network of hyperlocals in Seattle.

“They are really pushed to experiment,” Partnow said. “Students need to learn to trust themselves to follow something they think is interesting and are passionate about.”

Students get hands-on experience with new media technologies involving video, audio and other multimedia tools. Those skills are then easily transferable to other software platforms, Partnow said.

But she said it’s also important not to assume that just because the students are college age that they will intuitively understand the online world and new technologies.

“They do sometimes need to be taught even the most basic skills,” Partnow said. “Not everybody is blogging or posting videos to YouTube.”

And the most important discussion in the class is not even related to technology — it’s ethics.

“Journalists must be thinking about ethics even more when working outside the traditional media,” Partnow said. “They might not have the colleagues to bounce ideas off of and probably don’t have a team of lawyers behind them.”