Be a Catalyst to #Disrupt Journalism Education

Jody Brannon
Feb 2, 2018 · 6 min read

Step forward by March 4 to be a 2018 Tow-Knight Disruptive Fellow. Goal: propose, and advance real change in journalism schools, programs and classrooms.

Do you see a problem with the rules, norms, traditions, or structures of journalism education that you’d like to solve? Are you game to collaborate with other catalysts to understand and bring significant, needed change to journalism education during this age of urgency?

Apply for a 2018 Tow-Knight Disruptive Fellowship by March 4 at 11:59 p.m. PT. This year’s program, again in collaboration with the Online News Association, will support efforts by serious change agents to overcome the challenges that they — that YOU , a faculty member, adjunct, lecturer or administrator — consider key to training next-gen practitioners and leaders that journalism needs to survive and to thrive.

The program will support as many as 10 Fellows as they pursue solutions in three areas: institutional friction points; evolving curriculum; and advancing communities. And if your revolutionary idea doesn’t fit, we urge you to propose it in a fourth, wildcard category.

You will be invited to present the results of your work.


Step forward as a change agent who gains buy-in from other educators. Use the collective brain trust of the Disruptive Journalism Educators Network on Facebook to refine your cutting-edge plan. Spark attention and roll-out support for the change we need.


  • A $1,500 stipend.
  • Your $389 early-bird, group registration fee to attend ONA18 on Sept. 13–15 in Austin, where you will be given the opportunity to present your work.
  • Help identifying and incentivizing collaborators.
  • In-kind support, including coaching and social marketing.
  • Successful applicants may receive additional, minor funding for activities that they propose to advance their work.


  • A strategy and a course of action — spanning spring and summer — to explore, refine, and build support for your idea.
  • Regular engagement with the Disruptive Journalism Educators Network to research, explore, validate and crystalize your disruptive concept.
  • Use of various methods and tools, online and/or in person, to shape your solution and rollout strategy.
  • Presentation of your proposal or roadmap at ONA18 during the Educators Meetup, where your solutions can gain momentum — and perhaps additional support for development and rollout.


Here are examples of the kinds of problems that would fall into each of the three application categories — provided to help you think about the problem you want to solve, not to recommend problems that we think you should consider.

Institutional Friction Points [school policies, culture or limitations that get in the way]: Examples: How can a department bust silos? How can a school improve its diversity, among students and/or faculty?

Evolving Curriculum [ways to keep abreast of best practices, trends and emerging media]: How can professors better raise their skills and revise their courses term to term? How can a hospital model be infused across courses for both lower and upperclassmen?

Advancing Communities [fostering ways for students/schools to truly listen, serve and partner with residents and interest groups on meeting their news needs]: How can a J-school take a leadership role in engaging the community around them? How could students collaborate on discrete projects with local media outlets?

Wildcard: How would you address other problems spanning the journalism education sphere? We’re interested in bold ideas that may revitalize and/or revolutionize how journalism is taught or administered in high school, community colleges, four-year schools and grad programs.

Here are examples of the kinds of approaches Fellows might take to solving a problem over the spring and summer. Again, these examples are to focus your thinking about your problem and work, not suggest a problem to work on or a particular approach.

Institutional Friction Points: A team of tenured professors and adjuncts might consider ways to break down silos in their department, allowing educators with different experience and skills to learn from one another. A team of professors and deans may want to explore how to make journalism schools more diverse and reflective of the communities they serve. A robust thread in the Disruptive Journalism Educators Network about how to increase diversity and inclusivity in our programs produced to a Twitter exchange that may lead to a subconference. Another example which addresses curricular innovation and emerging topics relevant to mass communication curriculum and scholarship is the PhDigital Boot Camp conceived by Texas State’s Cindy Royal and funded by the Knight Foundation.

Evolving Curriculum: A tenured professor, adjunct and newly minted Ph.D. conceive of a way to keep colleagues aware of best teaching practices by holding regular conference calls for educators. As examples, two CUNY educators hosted “Fresh Ideas for Journalism Profs,” a Zoom conference for educators to share classroom ideas and approaches; and Ohio’s Michelle Ferrier and strategist Liz Mays collaborated with others to produce a crowdsourced textbook on entrepreneurial journalism, holding deeper online discussions about various chapters.

Advancing Communities: What if a new professor who just transitioned from a newsroom and a tenured professor with 30 years of experience teamed with a community college instructor to better understand how journalists can engage in new and innovative ways with the community? Consider the genesis out of the University of Oregon of Gather, a platform created to support community-minded journalists and engagement professionals. Its disruptive mission: “to make journalism more responsive to the public’s needs and more inclusive of the public’s voices and diversity.”

Wildcard: Perhaps you have the itch to solve a problem that doesn’t fit into the categories above. That’s great. Please just describe it in the application form, and choose Other/Wildcard when asked into which category it falls.


Apply now using this form. Extended deadline is now Sunday, March 4, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. PT

• We’ll evaluate and work with applicants to refine their Fellowship proposals on a rolling basis as applications are submitted. We’ll roll out announcements of the 2018 Fellows throughout March.


The City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism is home to the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. Among its communities of practice is the Disruptive Journalism Educators Network. In 2017, the DJEN evolved from its support of entrepreneurial journalism to a broader emphasize on helping journalism programs transform more rapidly to meet the changing needs of students and the industry. The first group of Disruptive fellows was selected to lead conversation and engage other educators on a topic that impassioned them; this second group will consist of individuals who will work together to master their understanding of a particular arena, tap the collective wisdom of the broader community of journalism educators and outline a pathway to change. Presenting at the ONA conference is a natural testing point in the iterative process. We hope your proposal might catch fire, and — with Tow-Knight’s help — amplify and operationalize your concept.

Meet the the 2017 Disruptive fellows, who provided individual leadership on specific topics.

Feel free to email any of the program coordinators: community manager Jody Brannon, community associate Melissa DiPento and general manager Hal Straus.

Disruptive Journalism Educators Network

Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Jody Brannon

Written by

Journalist, educator & consultant at .coms since '95 (WashPost, USAT, MSN, News21, Atlantic Media, NatGeo, Bing News, CUNY) intent on maximizing the medium.

Disruptive Journalism Educators Network

Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Jody Brannon

Written by

Journalist, educator & consultant at .coms since '95 (WashPost, USAT, MSN, News21, Atlantic Media, NatGeo, Bing News, CUNY) intent on maximizing the medium.

Disruptive Journalism Educators Network

Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship

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