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JA Market Scan: U of O’s School of Journalism and Communication prepares to launch a new Center for Journalism Innovation

University of Oregon

Journalism Accelerator

Since its launch in June 2011 the Journalism Accelerator has been developing, growing and refining a network to examine emerging business practices for journalism from multiple vantage points. In late April 2013, the JA was awarded an assignment from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) to produce a market scan to help inform its new Center for Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement (working title). The Center will be based out of the beautiful Turnbull Center in Portland Oregon, also headquarters for U of O’s digital media master’s degree.

The purpose of the market scan is to get a sense of how schools of journalism are addressing the need for innovation to sustain journalism in the digital age. The JA will apply its crowd sourced, qualified conversation techniques for data collection (on and offline). We will synthesize the information to guide discussion around the mission and vision of the new SOJC Center.

We’ve been finalizing the work plan, having inspirational strategy sessions, rounded out with preliminary discussion across peers and journalism verticals. And the sampling has begun!

We’ll be posting a series of reports this month, this being the first. We anticipate two more posts with specific questions for you to address. Join us in this information quest, as we share back with you the bounty of our findings in pursuit of new knowledge.

Taking Inventory

An initial scan shows that dozens of journalism schools have launched specialized centers in recent years, including many that focus on digital media, innovation, entrepreneurship and business, product and technology development. Some have developed new forms of skills training through multimedia and community journalism projects, including digital media mid-career training and skills certification. For the most part, these centers are located from Chicago to the east. In the west, they are south of San Francisco.

While all of the emerging journalism school efforts toward innovation are making significant contributions, we feel there is an underlying dynamic to explore. Are these changes merely improvements on what some suggest is “the old paradigm” of journalism, or are they truly transforming journalism for a new era. Dozens of reports, scores of articles and a growing body of data reveal there is some distance yet to travel to truly see disruptive models with new mechanisms of sustainability, distribution AND experience creation to serve an increasingly diversified news market.

The University of Oregon’s new Center for Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement presents a well-timed opportunity. The Journalism Accelerator’s burning question as we go deeper into this examination:

How might a Northwest-based Center for Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement provide a unique approach to truly transform the possibility and promise of journalism in the digital age?

This question inspires the work of JA as we source a baseline of the market demand (how businesses value journalism products), vet customer expectations (student, alumni, consumers) and take a sample of academic programs to anecdotally evaluate their progress.

The JA market scan will enrich the SOJC process with input from those who have been breaking trail. It will empower the SOJC with essential data to see into what’s working, what’s missing, and what’s just waiting to be built into, on top of, or out of.

Selecting a sample

Engelberg talk at Turnbull in July

The Turnbull Center has been hosting conversations inviting Portland's professional community to expand their networks and gain new insight. This photo taken at Stephen Engelberg's talk summer of 2012. Credit: Lisa Skube

Working with Dean Tim Gleason, the JA has outlined a sample we’ll collect in layers. We will report out on this, sharing back with the JA community methods to consider trying as others contemplate new revenue streams and how to evaluate need for new products or services.

When launching new initiatives or services lines or products into the marketplace, it is critical to understand that market and the existing (or latent) demand, as well as seeing into the important work others are doing. As the JA helps the U of O see into the opportunity fully recognizing the significant importance a new U of O Center for Journalism Innovation represents, our analysis centers around the requirements of the system. We slice this into functional, practical and aspirational objectives, using these terms in this general context:

  • Functional Value: Meaning what is the utility, what are the essential capabilities of the system, the core products, the differentiators, what is the value to the existing supply chain?
  • Practical Value: Meaning what is the usefulness of the Center for peers, the larger community, the market or  “customer” (student and the consumer/market demand)
  • Aspirational Value: Meaning how will the Center bring more good to the existing market system as a whole, how will the Center be able to deliver transformational verses incremental value to advance journalism innovation in a truly new way, what does success for the Center look like?

We’re also developing streams of research to provide an overview “beyond the usual suspects” – meaning going out to a sample of businesses to vet the value they gain from journalism products and their need for verifiable, relevant information in their lives. Do they see a job candidate with a journalism degree as a must hire?

We’re also tapping into traditional “desk review” with research around a sample of university programs emerging across the country with specific specialties. In addition to this we’re looking at a couple universities that have launched successful products; Harvard’s Crimson Hexagon and Boston University’s New England Center for Investigative Reporting. A couple additional supplemental pieces include a scan of non-traditional programs with a focus on diversity and community representation as well as taking a look at how a Center based in the Northwest brings unique opportunity to other university programs who up to this point, have not had a regional Center for Journalism Innovation to collaborate with.

Active listening & open invitation

Throughout this inventory exercise, we will be providing space here on the JA for others to bring their voice to this work. The open questions we’ll post here on the blog over the next few weeks will target students or graduates of journalism programs. We have been gathering reports, articles, research, critiques and commentary from the past few years as we’ve been developing the strategy frame for this work. The piece we’ll be speaking to in future posts and what we’re really curious to hear from the community is where you all see the transformational potential for journalism.

On this post, our question to the community taps into Clay Christensen’s framing from the Innovator’s Dilemma. A significant objective of this inventory is to help identify for the U of O’s SOCJ new Center for Journalism Innovation to do what others aren’t doing, in a complementary way. Our aim to help lay a foundation for the Center through this exercise of discovery looking at the opportunity for journalism from a different angle:

What is possible and what is missing as we can clearly see the paradigm for delivering, experiencing and sustaining news has completely changed.

How can the Center that the U of O will be developing help to catalyze the significant work of others, as well as truly come at this in an entirely new way?