Developing News Products at the UA School of Journalism

What is product development?

This was the question many of us at the University of Arizona School of Journalism had on the first day of our school’s news product development class.

I personally tried out the class because over the summer I decided to specialize in digital journalism, and our professor, Michael McKisson, had pitched the class within two of my graduate courses last spring.

The course is made possible by a $35,000 grant from the Online News Association’s Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. The UA School of Journalism won the grant in October 2017. The grant allows the J-school to partner with the Arizona Daily Star product developers and editors who will mentor all of us students throughout the semester.

The bulk of the money will go to two teams of two students who develop the best product. The winning teams will each receive a paid fellowship in the spring to develop their product at the Star.

According to the Star’s Product Manager Becky Pallack, product development is the opposite of “Build it; they will come” — the memorable phrase heard in the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.”

Instead, Becky said the goal is to create a product that creates change, something that builds value for customers.

A news product can be anything: a newsletter, chatbot or podcast, etc.

Developing the right product involves in-depth empathy interviewing, which is sort of like living the life of the market or user group whose problem we want to solve.

The Star is an important partner for this course. Not only does its leadership recognize which readers they serve well, but they are also cognizant of the markets or user groups they are not serving well.

That’s where my fellow classmates and I come in.

We’re using empathy interviews and other techniques to find user groups the Star isn’t serving well. We will find the common, shared problems among the groups we’re interested in and eventually develop prototypes with them completely in mind.

As one of five women graduate students in this course, I will be blogging about my experiences and what I’ve learned.

Professor McKisson described it best when he said we should use this platform to show why our course “hacks the curriculum.”

So that’s what we will do.

Be sure to follow our weekly blog posts right here.

And follow my fellow women graduate bloggers who too will show why product development at the UA School of Journalism is truly a first-of-its-kind course.

These are their Medium accounts:

Ava Garcia, @agarcia9

Ambur Wilkerson, @amburwilkerson

Jessica Suriano, @jessicansuriano

Katelyn Caldwell, @kcaldwell_84090

Oh, and don’t forget to follow me too! @krissyobeng