I must admit, the latest topic(s) by Carnival Ringmaster David Cohn had me a bit stumped. And, I seriously considered taking a pass this time around. But, knowing Dave as I do I wondered whether he wasn’t doing a bit of crowdsourcing here and actually, I think it’s pretty clear he is.
So, maybe the Reynolds folks are looking for some direction? With that possibility in mind, here are some thoughts on the future of The Reynolds Fellowship.
I struggled with answering this because when I go to the RJI web site, I don’t get much of a feeling of what the Fellows are actually doing. It looks like a good deal of writing and researching. And, we all know the definition of “Fellows” — spend a year talking and writing about issues. Which, I guess, is fine. But, man-oh-man, we have so many people writing and talking about the “Future of Journalism.” Honestly, I grow weary of it. My Twitter feed is filled with people talking about the Future of Journalism — everyone and their cousin has an opinion on the New York Times’ paywall. But, seriously, how do paywalls get wrapped into discussion about the future of journalism? Seriously?
One of my old bosses was fond of saying: “We’re breathing our own fumes here.” It seems to me that with so many people talking and talking and talking about the future, we end up breathing our own fumes. We’re intoxicated with the possibilities and what could happen but (with rare exceptions) our legs get stuck in the mud when it comes to execution.
Meanwhile, flying under the radar are educators across the country who are actually experimenting, exploring and trying to implement many of the ideas that are talked to death endlessly. How can we get them involved as Fellows?
At UMass-Amherst, I teach an Investigative Journalism & The Web course where students provide content for a local news Web site, producing both daily blog content for the site, as well as longer, semester-long projects. There are plenty of schools around the country, including ours, that are beginning to incorporate elements of Entrepreneurial Journalism into their curriculum.
Listen, I’m not attacking the Fellows. I know quite a few of them and they’re really smart folks. But man-oh-man, can we start doing some things? I’m sure many of them would be excited by that idea.
We all go to the same conferences where we get energized about the Future of Journalism. We promise to act on the many fantastic ideas we talk about over lattes. But, all too often (and I’m as guilty as anyone) the ideas get lost when we return to our day-to-day lives. So, how about making the Reynolds Fellowship into something more concrete?
* What: Produce from one idea. Have the Fellows work on one idea. Give fellows one year to take an idea and make it into reality. Each Fellow could bring their own strengths/talents to the project….think more along the lines of editors working together in a newsroom.
* How: The idea could come from a number of sources but it would be worth putting out a nationwide call for ideas and have a panel of former Fellows choose the best idea?
* Who: Is it possible to crowdsource educators and or/students from across the nation on a Fellows project? This is not an original idea — it’s been kicked around in various corners but might be worth revisiting here. Can it happen? Kind of exciting just to think about it, no?
In the words of DigiDave, such a course of action would be pretty “rad.”