“I don’t think journalism has an entrepreneurial problem, I think it has a psychological problem,” Eric Newton, vice president of the journalism program at the Knight Foundation told a group of journalism professors at a panel on student entrepreneurs the AEJMC conference last week in Boston.
Journalists, Newton said, have finely honed instincts for chasing a story, doing whatever it takes to nail something down and coming up with clever ways for getting the information they need on deadline. They are, in other words, full of the kind of entrepreneurial skill and spirit needed to bring an idea to life. The problem lies with thought patterns that limit their ability to exploit that skill set – they don’t think broadly and apply that same mindset to changes in the business model or the organizational structure.
Journalism students are taught that the story is ALL that matters, but this is not true, Newton said. Stories sustain and are sustained by a whole media ecosystem that must function for the best journalism to thrive. That ecosystem includes factors such as monopoly power, capital, and control. (The last sentence via tweet from Mindy McAdams, @macloo, who took better notes on that part than I did. 🙂 )
This comment struck me as insightful – although I would note that this is a systemic and not an individual-level problem. For most individual journalists laboring in the trenches, institutional structure and culture make it difficult to think or behave more entrepreneurally, and this is something that will require full organizational commitment from the very top on down to change.
I’d agree that the days when journalists can separate themselves from all other aspects of the business are long past. Of course there are important ethical considerations and we must continue to keep outside influences out of the news, but the time is certainly now for thinking creatively about ways of organizing work flow, and being willing to experiment with new products or ideas that might fail.
Having written this, not sure if it’s as interesting as it first struck me while at the session – curious to see if others have thoughts to contribute.
This is just one of what I hope will be a series of short posts about what I learned at AEJMC this year. I will also blog about what some of the other members of this panel said.