Innovation in Journalism Education is spelled 'C-L-E-A-R'

By on January 23, 2014

Innovation in Journalism Education (to me) is “C-L-E-A-R.”


Who is proposing the idea is less important than what is being proposed.


Encourage new leaders by supporting those who raise their hands and speak up.


Is there substantive internal risk taking? (Journalism educators are a creative bunch. Let them loose.)


It’s important to ask why something didn’t work. It’s more important to ask — and document –why it did. Focus on success.


Who are the benefactors and what are they getting in exchange for their risk?

I’m on a peer review committee for the Fulbright Scholar Program, co-direct a program for media startups led by journalists of color and serve as a judge for an international startup competition. I teach graduate students and work as a project manager for a media company. The values mentioned above are mine and I apply them when reading, viewing or listening to pitches, whether it’s for a story idea or a new company.

What I’ve seen is that “innovation” is an overused word. What’s key to keep in mind is what we’re really talking about when we talk about innovating, which are new systems, standards and measurements that determine what is useful and meaningful. For example, how many blogs make an impact? The experience of developing a mobile app can provide lots of lessons, but, in a crowded marketplace, is the app useful in a unique way?

Innovation also has many faces. Our nation has become very diverse; the data says, among other things, that more and more Latinos are graduating high school and going to college than ever before. In 2011, the Pew Research Center found, “Across all of these racial and ethnic groups, young women are more likely than young men to be college-educated. The gender difference in completion rates is reflected in the makeup of college graduates. Among all college graduates ages 25-29 in 2010, 55 percent were women and 45 percent were men. The gap was largest within the black community, where 63 percent of college-educated young adults were women and only 37 percent were men.”

Innovation in this context means having faculty and curriculum that reflects the evolving student population. Are we grooming the next generation of faculty through culturally inclusive innovation?

Maybe there’s an app for that — and ONA hopes to find it in your Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education application.

Doug Mitchell is a consultant and project manager for NPR and UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, based in Washington, D.C.