I’ve been invited to the Hardly. Strictly. Young. conference on alternative ways to implement Knight Foundation recommendations at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri [More on that later]. One of the fun precursors to the two-day event later this month has been participating in the Journalism Carnival of blogging, shepherded by conference organizer, Spot.Us founder and leather jacket-wearer David Cohn.
In January, I wrote about the role universities should play in creating journalism, and in February wrote about two ways to grow the number of news sources. In March, I was supposed to write on what the Knight News Challenge should do next and how the RJI fellows program could be a part of curating that innovation.
Fortunately, in being late, I can point to others who already did it better than I would. No, Cohn, this isn’t a cop out, this is cutting my losses. The undercurrent on both of these questions for me is that I’m not worried about the craft as much as I’m worried about sustaining the craft.
If I were to change any single element of the News Challenge it would be this: I’d put at least half of the money not into grants but into equity investments in for-profit companies. To make this happen, the foundation would partner with a small group of highly qualified angel investors — people who cared at least as much about the future of news as returns on investment. Together we’d raise a fund that could offer seed and angel capital to digital media entrepreneurs whose projects showed the kind of promise that could lead to serious returns.
In fact, back in November, I wrote something somewhat similar, in highlighting what the News Challenge could learn from venture capitalists.
For the Reynolds question, Steve Outing nailed that the best, from what I saw:
Because the program is small, I’d narrow the focus significantly. In fact, for each fellowship year, I’d pick a theme and find fellows who all wanted to work on complementary aspects of the theme. Let’s say for the next crew of fellows, select all of them because they want to focus on variations on a theme of “business models for journalism in the digital age.” Next year, I’d pick a different theme. The key would be that the theme is the most important challenge or opportunity facing journalism at the time. Business models for journalism addresses solving a big problem for the news industry and for journalists who want to make a living. A theme that could address an opportunity instead of a problem would be best utilizing emerging mobile technologies in the news realm.
Focus, yes, something I noted was my goal for 2011 and one I thought the future of news conversations could take on.