Friday, February 12, 2010

Word to the wise: brand yourself

"Overwhelmed with the challenges facing the media, but excited about its future prospects. I have a lot of learning to do," tweeted Adam Falk, who expects to earn a degree in magazine journalism in 2011 from the University of Missouri at Columbia.

"The conference is over, my brain is full, my to-do list is long, but I couldn't be more excited about the future of journalism!" tweeted Michelle Flandreau, a broadcast journalism major at the school.

The two were among the journalism students who attended today's Carnegie Corporation of New York/The Paley Center for Media conference in New York City on the future of journalism education and tweeted about the program. (According to the site What the Hashtag, which tracks Twitter traffic, they were among more than 200 contributors offering nearly 800 tweets on the day-long event.)

I saw Falk and Flandreau in the audience as I watched a live stream of one of the day's sessions, which featured Jeff Jarvis of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism leading a panel on entrepreneurship and journalism. (Below is a photo posted to twitpic showing Jarvis, standing right, taking audience questions and comments as the panel wrapped up.)

There's been a lot of discussion lately (see here and here, for instance) about the state of journalism instruction, now that the bedrock of legacy newspapers has cracked.

One emerging theme is the journalist as entrepreneur, a favorite topic for Jarvis, which subscribes to the idea that reporters no longer will be identified with their employer but will be a franchise unto themselves. It's a "business" they'll need to develop.

Jarvis' panel offered up four entrepreneurs in online journalism --Rafat Ali, founder, publisher and editor of ContentNext Media; Phil Balboni, president and CEO of Global Post; John Harris, editor-in-chief of Politico; and John Thornton, chairman of The Texas Tribune  -- and he asked each of them what kinds of skills the next generation of working journalists should be taught.

And that's where Falk and Flandreau got their headaches: branding, marketing, creating business plans, developing niche specialties -- all in addition to learning to write and report well. Concurrently, j-schools should throw out the study tracks (print, broadcast, Web) into which students have always been slotted: "Digital should be the core of everything," Balboni said.

"Teach the business of news," he added. "... (It) is more important in many respects than the journalism."

The Paley Center promised to archive video from the conference here over the weekend.

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