How might we kickstart the journalism ecosystem of tomorrow? If you’re a journalist, and you’ve considered starting your own business, I have five questions for you.

Six years ago, I had the opportunity to produce a groundbreaking online course that explored the intersection of journalism and software. I believe it had an impact and I’m thinking about doing it again. Here’s how you can help.

Phillip Smith
Jan 16, 2018 · 4 min read

As I wrote back in October, the question I’ve been grappling with here at Stanford is “What might be effective ways to inspire and support reporters to start a journalism business of their own?”

To explore that question, I’ve conducted dozens of interviews — from the people who are running media entrepreneurship programs to people who have literally written the book on journalism entrepreneurship and media economics — each with a person that holds an important piece of the puzzle, each shedding light on the question of “how do we encourage people to take a risk to kickstart the journalism ecosystem of tomorrow?

Those interviews have led me to countless articles, academic papers, and books (a curated reading list is forthcoming). And, so far, this research has brought me to one simple realization:

To get this right, I need to hear from more of the actual individuals who might consider starting a journalism undertaking, and — if you’re reading this — it’s possible that you might be one of those people, or know one of those people (if you know this person, please share).

In my last post, one of the ideas that I proposed was business coaching and mentoring. I believe that a lot of the starting points of this coaching and mentoring could be delivered through an online course. And I believe that an online course might reach more of people in the communities where journalism startups are most needed — more so than in-person bootcamps — with some limited trade offs. (If you’re curious why I believe this to be true, you can read some backstory further down.)

So, to explore this theory further, I have five simple questions for you:

  • How might you be convinced to invest your time and attention into a journalism-entrepreneurship training course? (Let’s say that the course would be four weeks long and delivered online.)
  • What would you want to know when you finished?
  • What would you want to have accomplished along the way?
  • Who in the industry would you want to hear from, specifically?
  • What types of people would you hope to meet as fellow participants?

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or drop me a note in one of the usual places.

The backstory: Why I believe this might work

One of our guest speakers was Jeff Jarvis. Others included: Amanda Cox, Burt Herman, Shazna Nessa, Mohamed Nanabhay, and Evan Hansen.

Six years ago, I had the opportunity to produce a groundbreaking online course that explored the intersection of journalism and software. It brought together an all-star cast of people as speakers, participants, advisors, and auditors. The course was a marvel of technology that deeply engaged more than 100 participants for a period of four weeks and I saw first hand that it delivered value and had an impact.

More recently, I travelled the world for two years producing media entrepreneurship events and experimented with how to adapt critical entrepreneurship concepts for the realities of journalists (and the journalism-interested). And I saw how it was possible to create a map for people who wanted to take a next step, from one-on-one coaching to accelerators to investment.

The Hacks/Hackers Connect workshop series brought together more than 1000 aspiring journalism entrepreneurs in six cities around the world.

Putting these two experiences together just make sense to me.

I’m excited by the idea. I’ve started asking people to agree to contribute a guest lecture if it moves ahead, and I’m sketching out a course outline. But I can’t actually move forward and do this without input from you. (For the moment, let’s be safe and consider it a thought experiment.)

So, put simply, this is an opportunity to influence the direction of this not-quite-massive open online course on journalism entrepreneurship. And If you’re one of the ones that responds to the questions above, you’ll absolutely be the first to know when registration opens.

P.S. If you’ve read this far, please consider giving this post a “clap” so that it reaches more people.

As part of this JSK Fellowship, I’m working to improve the amount of “thinking out loud” that I do. This post is part of that effort and it works like this: I throw out some roughly formulated ideas that I’ve been considering, and you provide me with input to make them better. In the process, we’ll learn from each other, and you will be the first to try the resulting output: a product, an event, a course, etc. If that sounds good, you should consider following me to receive updates.

JSK Class of 2018

Insights and experiences from the John S. Knight Journalism Fellows at Stanford

Phillip Smith

Written by

Digital product developer. Media startup advisor. Journalism philanthropist. Mozilla Sr. Fellow ’17. JSK Stanford Fellow ‘17–18. Certified Lean Stack coach.

JSK Class of 2018

Insights and experiences from the John S. Knight Journalism Fellows at Stanford

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