Monthly Archives: March 2011

How do you push innovation? #jcarn

It’s the third Carnival of Journalism and while I don’t have any crystal clear thoughts on the prompt (my own doing) I still want to get my .02 in.

The question is how can organizations like Knight and Reynolds Journalism Institute – continue to spur innovation.

For five years Knight has spurred innovation with the Knight News Challenge and as they reach the end of this cycle along with hiring a new Vice President perhaps they are at a pivot point to think about future strategy. That’s partly why I asked this question. What moves do you think Knight should do to continue to push the boundaries of innovation in our community information needs?

Here’s something where I don’t think Knight gets enough credit: The cultural changes that have come as a result of the Knight News Challenge. Lots of people knock the challenge. Lots of people “lost” the challenge. I’m obviously bias in that Spot.Us wouldn’t have happened without it.

But win or lose – the Knight News Challenge got thousands of people to think through their own startup. That’s incredible. All too often I think we are judging the Knight News Challenge based on the specific results when the cultural (for lack of a better term) push has been just as if not more significant.

I get contacted by students all the time that WANT to start their own journalism organization. This number increases every year. Being an entrepreneur is still scary but it’s starting to get a chic coolness to it.

So my recommendation for Knight isn’t about a specific program or tweak. Some people think the challenge should go smaller/lighter others probably thing bigger and grander. Some want it to continue as is, others can’t take the rejection anymore.

My point is this: Whatever you do -  it’s not just about who you fund or the specific projects you end up putting money into – it’s how you influence the larger community. How you get them involved, how you push the cultural boundaries toward innovation. Set the stage for something that goes beyond the dollars you throw out. I think Knight is aware of this, I just want to put it out there.

As for my suggestions to Reynolds: It’s a much smaller program (almost all journalism programs are compared to Knight) and there is a specific project underway ie: the fellowship. I’m in the midst of it right now, so it’s hard to write about this with any hindsight. I’ll say this – one of the best parts of my fellowship has actually been living with fellow fellow and the JourNerd in Chief Will Sullivan. I think there should be ways where future fellows continue to have relationships in some way shape or form. Will and I live together – it has been great, except our weekly podcast still hasn’t gotten off the ground ;)

In a dream state I’d love to see a “fellows house” where all the fellows live. It’s like a college frat house but instead of chugging and wearing shirts that say “COLLEGE” we’ll share our RSS feed info and discover new iPhone apps together. I realize it’s a bit of a pie-in-the-sky idea, but it’s what comes to mind in terms of solidifying the fellows relationships and that’s in part influenced by the great experience I’ve had living with Will.