Mr. Gillin, come to Stony Brook

I’ve just read a post on a terrific blog by a longtime technology journalist turned media consultant named Paul Gillin, who sees the lay of the new media landscape as clearly as anyone.

His blog is called Newspaper Death Watch, and the post is entitled “J-Schools Get an F in Finance.”

Gilln spoke to a journalism class at a program he says is “considered one of the finest in the country.” His topic: “the state of the US media: Why it’s in a predicament, how the story is likely to play out and what it all means for aspiring journalists.”

That sounds a lot like the course that inspired this blog, Stony Brook’s JRN 301: Journalism 24/7.

Gillin was stunned by the students’ lack of awareness about the industry they were training for. The students “were aware that they’re stepping into an uncertain world but they didn’t seem to grasp the finer points of the media business,” he writes. “Looking at the journalism department’s website later, I could see why. The curriculum lists 29 courses in the journalism program, and not a single one is about the economics of publishing or how to sustain a career as a journalist.”

Paul, come talk to our students.

Journalism 24/7 is a required course for all our majors and minors. It examines the current chaos in the news industry, a chaos underlain by so many things: the astoundingly disruptive explosion of the World Wide Web, beginning with the migration of classified advertising from newspapers to job sites, Craigslist, eBay; the advent of a thousand distractions that didn’t exist 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago (take your pick: video games, movies on demand, mobile devices); the consolidation of national retail chains and the decline of the U.S. auto industry, which shrank the ranks of newspaper advertisers.

I teach Journalism 24/7 every semester, and every semester, it’s a different course. The industry’s rate of change–its delta–has been so steep that, after examining the old, blown-apart business models, we spend the rest of our time exploring the what’s new. We follow entrepreneurial projects like Dave Cohn’s Spot.us, we follow corporate hyperlocal initiatives like Aol’s Patch.com, we follow the raging debate over paywalls.

As a school, we haven’t yet incorporated any significant classes in entrepreneurship, but as a final project in Journalism 24/7, I ask my students to come up with a piece of the puzzle, something that could sustain quality journalism while making money. Some of the ideas have been terrific.

Paul, come talk to our students. They’re ready to listen.

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  1. It sounds like you’re on the right path. I’d love to stop by next time I’m in the area, which unfortunately isn’t that often. Contact me if you want to discuss a more formal visit: paul [at] gillin [dot] com.

  2. I could not agree more, but I sense a slight problem with this post and the previous one which says, our Dean wants to turn out reporters. I think we can all agree that another generation of ‘reporters’ is the last thing the our industry has to produce. We have to produce a generation of robust journalist/entrepreneurs, which I think you agree with. So not to put your employment in jeopardy, but perhaps the blog should become a bit more directed in terms of what the school has to do. As in, open letter to the Dean or something like that?

    • Michael, I AM with you on the importance of creating journalist/entrepreneurs, but I’m not giving up on the sense of mission. If it’s not all to be zombies on the boardwalk, as in the story you showed my students last term, then we still need to teach people to be reporters. There’s a different quality in the way reporters see the world. It’s a quality innate in some but in need of cultivation in others. Once cultivated, it can be married to entrepreneurship.

  3. I worked with Paul Gillin at Computerworld back in the late 1980s. His observations are on the money. Editors and publishers in the mainstream media were not interested in examining the implications of what was coming out for Route 128 and Silicon Valley. As I tell my students are Rutgers-New Brunswick, where I lecture part-time, figuring out what to do with the technology and journalism is up to you. Here’s an example of what RU students are going to launch on February 19:
    http://www.itsonbad.com.

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