Hi all —
I’m at Day 2 of the ICONN conference at the University of Tennessee. This is the launching pad of Jim Stovall’s idea to find ways to unite student journalists around the country.
It’s the second conference I’ve been to during the winter break — the other was at Western New England College where I was also asked to speak about the future of journalism.
The mood at the two conferences could not be more different.
There was a pall over the conference at Western New England College — there were many newspaper-oriented people lamenting the state of the industry and some in the audience and panelists seemed to have their head in the sand about the business realities of organizations still focused on their print products.
The denial reached epic proportions when one local news editor said the current problems with print newspapers is just part of the economic downturn and that if newspapers can survive the downturn, they will be ok.
Flash forward to Knoxville (which is very cold this morning.) I walked into the greeting session yesterday and there was an exciting dynamic in the room. Folks are talking in terms of solutions — how to make their journalism programs relevant; how to continue to excite students; and how to take advantage of the many journalistic opportunities in the current environment.
I was on a panel yesterday with Mark Johnson from the University of Georgia and Steve Klein from George Mason and we all agreed with the notion that it’s a fun time to be teaching. We spoke about flexibility, innovation and experimentation being keywords not only in the business but also within academia. We spoke about ways to get all faculty members in our departments involved in the revolution while maintaining the many traditional standards of our profession.
The second panel had a group of local professional journalists talking about skillsets needed and more than one of them made the point that many skills needed are learned on the job. I don’t disagree with that but opportunities such as Amherst Wire allow students to apply much of the skills they learn during their time here, prepping them for the workplace even more.
Yesterday’s discussion inevitably led to questions about the future of the business model within journalism and the one editor of the local paper here spoke of finding ways for the pay-for-content model to return. Such longing for the past was luckily only a minimal part of the discussion here and he unfortunately didn’t offer many creative ideas on how to develop new business models.
The question of how the news business model will develop is continual. What’s exciting about the entrepeneurial journalism course that BJ and I have been talking about is that students will now begin wrestling with that idea here. It’s an exciting time to be looking at this stuff and the energy is palpable here at UT.
And, you can follow the excitement!