School was never like this…..
Yesterday, I was on Jury Duty.
Jury Duty at CUNY.
That’s City University of New York’s graduate school of journalism.
The school is fortunate enough to have Prof. Jeff Jarvis teaching a course there in what he calls ‘entrepreneurial journalism’.
When I went to journalism school, (Columbia ’83), the class was filled with starry-eyed idealists riding the wave of Woodruff/Bernstein, and planning on bringing down the government. (One of my classmates, Ron Suskind comes close). These students are riding a very different kind of wave. They are hard-headed realists, children of the web, with one eye on the journalism but another on the real business – a very different animal.
We used to say that there was a wall between the journalism and the business side, but the web has effectively taken that wall down. Now, in an era when anyone can put pretty much anything online, the journalist need no longer feed off the crumbs of the business side and MBAs and wear sweaters with holes in them. The new journalist can do both, and Jarvis and CUNY are, I think, rather unique and forward thinking in combining the two disciplines.
So yesterday, Jarvis’ class was called upon to present their concepts (complete with power point and other audio/visual aids) to both the class and a group of select jurors from the industry. (Have you ever seen the BBC series Dragon’s Den?)
Now, this was more than just some classroom exercise, (which was what we did at Columbia, and all we got was an MS degree). Here, the jury also had a remarkable $50,000 in seed money to get the lucky student(s) idea started – for real. The money came from The McCormick Foundation.
Kudos, Jarvis and CUNY.
I can’t think of any journalism school anywhere in the world that does anything like this.
In any event, after a day of presentations and some very hard questions from the jury (which included a major newspaper editor, a few VCs, a lot of folks who started and ran their own web/journalism companies), the jury was sequestered.
We debated and eliminated, and in the end, awarded an astonishing (to my mind) $30,000 to one student who proposed an online physics website, $10,000 to another who proposed a website devoted to the Ugandan expat community (which apparently sends home to Uganda $1 billion a year – so there’s a market there), and another grant to a young woman from Nigeria who envisions starting an underground radio network using cellphones in Nigeria. All very interesting ideas from journalism students.
Some real thinking out of the box.