Saturday, January 19, 2013

CUNY aims to incubate new media

Stephen Shepard, dean of CUNY
 Journalism School: "We are
 researching ways to support quality
as the old financial order erodes." 
Second in a series on entrepreneurial journalism programs at universities and media organizations.

City University of New York's Entrepreneurial Journalism program aims to be an incubator of new media projects as well as training the next generation of digital journalists.

To that end the faculty research is aimed at helping entrepreneurs directly, as with its survey of 500 local businesses' the online presence and marketing needs; its students do apprenticeships at startups that need help solving a problem; and each student develops a capstone project that could be a business plan or new media prototype. 

In addition, the school hosts events where some of New York City's digital entrepreneurs can present their projects and get feedback. “We want to play a role in the community,” says Jeremy Caplan, director of education for the program. “We want to be a place where people will come and share their ideas.” 

Resources for entrepreneurs

CUNY has also created a library of resources that any digital entrepreneur can use, such as sample business models and spreadsheets for community based media and tutorials for startup businesses. The founder of a major community news website used one of those spreadsheets in building a revenue model for the publication. Caplan has also created a library of resources for entrepreneurial journalists on Quora. 

CUNY's graduate program in journalism began in 2006. Stephen Shepard, founding dean of the school, said in a blog post that he wanted to go beyond what other schools were offering and foster a spirit of entrepreneurship that would help shape the future of journalism:

In a memo I wrote even before the School opened, I said, “Our course is ambitious, calling on students to develop new product ideas, write business plans, and generally expand their thinking. Not every student will be up to it, not every idea will make sense. But the goal is for students to understand what’s happening in today’s media world and think like entrepreneurs.”

One of his first hires was Jeff Jarvis, a veteran of print and digital media, who began developing the idea of a program in entrepreneurial journalism. 

$6 million in funding

The program took off in 2010 with grants of $3 million each from the Tow Foundation and Knight Foundation to establish the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY.

The following semester, CUNY launched its first one-semester certificate program in entrepreneurial journalism with a group of 11 students selected from more than 50 applicants. The third group of 16 is starting the course in 2013. 

The certificate program has courses on business models, fundamentals of business, technology, apprenticeship with a startup, and hands-on development of the student's own proposed capstone project, which can be a work of journalism, a business plan, or a prototype of a media product. 

Student projects
The program goes beyond teaching and coaching. It awarded $47,000 in seed funding to five students in the 2012 class to develop their capstone projects. Among them: 

  • Brianne Garcia, $16,500 for Parceld, an online space where women looking for specific items are matched with retailers and brands. Garcia has assembled a team and built a prototype.
  • Ashley Milne-Tyte, $3,000 for The Broad Experience, a podcast series on the subject of women and the workplace that launched in September 2012. 
  • Noah Rosenberg, $6,500 to develop a platform for long-form storytelling focused on New York. In September 2012 he launched, which has developed a substantial following, and he has raised $54,000 in a Kickstarter campaign. He has plans to expand to 10 other cities.

Digital faculty

Jeff Jarvis, director
Entrepreneurial Journalism
The main faculty in the program are Jarvis and Caplan. Jarvis was creator and founding editor of Entertainment Weekly and developed local Internet news services as president of, the online arm of Advance Publications. His books include What Would Google Do? and Public Parts. He does consulting for major media organizations and writes a much-quoted blog, BuzzMachine

Caplan is a Ford Fellow in Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Poynter Institute. In addition to contributing to Time magazine, Caplan writes for The Wall Street Journal’s “Digits” blog. He has also worked for The Paris Review, Yahoo! Internet Life, and Newsweek.

Among the other faculty are:

  • Amit Paley, a management consultant at McKinsey & Company’s New York office, who helps teach the Fundamentals of Business course. He previously worked at The Washington Post as a financial investigative journalist, foreign correspondent based in Baghdad, and national education reporter. 
  • Nancy Wang, co-founder and COO of the international digital agency RevSquare/Mignon-Media, who teaches modules of the Technology Immersion course and also organizes a network of mentors to assist the Program’s students as they develop their business plans. 
Media center

The program benefits from its location in New York City, where it can draw upon big names in the media world as guest speakers, such as Martin Nisenholtz, head of digital strategy for The New York Times Company, and Henry Blodget, founder of Business Insider. Students make field trips to offices of Facebook, Tumblr, Etsy and other digital media innovators. 

The biggest problem now, Caplan says, is accommodating the demand. There were more than 150 applicants from 38 countries for slots in the current class of entrepreneurial journalism. Sixteen participants were selected

“It got me thinking ,” Caplan says. “We have a very small program. How could we say yes to them.” So last spring he experimented with an online version of the entrepreneurial journalism course. It was a combination of readings, videos, online discussions and an in-person session at the end of the course. 

Ultimately, though, the coaching and mentoring part of the process is the most important part of helping a student develop a project, he says. Even in distance learning.

City University of New York, M.A. in Entrepreneurial Journalism
Duration: four semesters
Courses: three-semester M.A. program plus one-semester Entrepreneurial Journalism certificate (below)
Schedule: 15 Mondays a semester, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, 3 weekend sessions
Students: Mainly mid-career professionals
Cost: New York residents $19,740, non-residents $35,055, international $40,835

Entrepreneurial Journalism Certificate

Duration: one semester
Courses: New Business Models for News, Fundamentals of Business, New Business Incubation, Technology Immersion, Media Apprenticeship
Students: Mainly mid-career professionals
Cost: New York residents $4,910, non-residents, $8,665


Medill builds on 30 years of entrepreneurial journalism
American University: New media entrepreneurship includes NGOs
Dan Gillmor: We need more experiments with revenue of media startups
In Mexico, innovative selection process for online master's in entrepreneurial journalism
Online courses play bigger role in entrepreneurial journalism
Universities can lead in incubation of new media models
Robert Niles: How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online
You create more value with "community" than with "audience"

1 comment: