University of New Mexico

University of New Mexico

New Mexico News Port

University of New Mexico is one of the 2014-15 winners of the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. See all 12 winners and the Honorable Mentions.


  • Michael Marcotte, Professor of Practice, University of Mexico
  • Richard Towne, General Manager, KUNM-FM (NPR)
  • Franz Joachim, CEO, KNME-TV (PBS)
  • Kate Nash, Advisor, Daily Lobo
  • Tim Castillo, Director, A.R.T.S. (Art, Research, Technology, Science) Lab, University of New Mexico
  • Michalis Faloutsos, Chair, Computer Science, University of New Mexico
  • Trip Jennings, Editor, New Mexico In-Depth

Communications and Journalism Faculty/Staff:

  • Lillian Kelly, Lecturer
  • Richard Schaefer, Associate Professor
  • Judith White, Associate Professor
  • David Weiss, Assistant Professor
  • Adan Garcia, Operations Manager
  • Nancy Montoya, Department Administrator
  • Karen Foss, Department Chair

Describe your project as a tweet

Strange bedfellows? News & Strat Comm students launch start-up. “We make local news go viral!” #UNM

What is your live news experiment?

Launch news innovation lab at state flagship university, the New Mexico News Port. Lab is “collaboration hub” for publishing, training, research and engagement. Strategy is to build a platform to feed other platforms to serve a diverse population.

Our hypothesis: the lab will excite students, help collaborators and cause richer journalism better serving diverse information needs. Platform distributing over other platforms increases reach and engagement.

How will this project reach enough people to make the experiment valid?

In a highly diverse state, this lab helps journalists reach more people – and engage them — with locally produced information.

Our strategy is to invent a student-powered publishing platform that curates content from our collaboration hub (both student-originated and professionally produced) and spins it out to myriad Internet channels using sophisticated techniques to maximize reach, engagement and effect.

The idea is that we not only offer resources to help generate local news but we have the people, the knowledge, the time and the methods to accelerate that to people who otherwise might miss it.

How is this project unique and innovative?

We promise a scale of journalistic collaboration never seen in New Mexico. The professional staffs of KUNM-FM and KNME-TV, along with the student journalists of The Daily Lobo, inform the lab activities in the Communication & Journalism (C&J) department.

An exciting aspect is bringing together C&J students from the multimedia news sequence and the strategic communication sequence. The news students edit and report, the strat comm students excel at online distribution. All students sustain public engagement. The C&J department has no established platform for producing and publishing student work, much less an innovation/experimentation space.

This project launches a web platform and workspace propelling the department into an experimental era. The curriculum will channel majors into the project. Our concept is that the lab can pivot frequently to accommodate student and faculty interests, partner interests, and public interests.

Another exciting element of our innovation lab will be hosting learning sessions – brown bag lunches, Skype chats with experts and quarterly bootcamps (digital training for local professionals). Our tenets will borrow from cutting edge principles of human-centered design, agile development, open-source coding, mobile and social networking, and promiscuous collaboration.

We imagine a future in which we begin to specialize in advanced digital techniques — including entrepreneurial endeavors — but first we need to establish our start-up team and our start-up space, and begin to modernize our campus culture.

What technology platforms will you use?

We propose to contact the Investigative News Network to adapt The Largo Project as our website development and publishing guide. It’s a modified WordPress platform and we’d like all our students to have a working understanding of WordPress and we are considering other options like Squarespace.

As part of our distribution strategy, we imagine working with all foreseeable social sharing platforms — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Vimeo, Vine, Ning, SoundCloud, StumbleUpon, Shareable, FourSquare, etc. — depending on the nature of the content and what’s effective.

We are also exploring a data-mapping project underway at UNM that allows a mash-up of GIS and Census data. We imagine adapting this online map tool on our site to geo-locate stories  Otherwise, this remains open-ended. Our friendship with UNM A.R.T.S. and Computer Science promise exploration of more entrepreneurial opportunities.

How will this project provide an educational experience for students above and beyond their current learning?

This is about real-world experience, ownership and accountability for our students. Currently, the students work within classroom frameworks where instructors implore them to find publishing outlets for their work, but publishing is not wired into the curriculum. As a result, students rarely publish and don’t meet the needs of local news outlets. The lab changes that.

Also, at present, our coursework tends to silo news reporting and strategic communication activities. Students may visit both silos, but rarely is there an opportunity to see how news and marketing converge in practice: where digital distribution of news content now relies more intensely on knowing and meeting user demands.

The innovation lab represents an outlet our students help control and maintain. It is also a globally connected classroom that will sponsor brown bag meetings, Skype-dialogues and workshops. Partners (and campus community) will come to see our students as digital gurus.

Project update, October 2014: Heading into our second year, students are now producing on-air content for New Mexico PBS, for KUNM-FM, online and print content for Daily Lobo, online content for New Mexico In Depth, and, of course, online content for the New Mexico News Port site. We clearly increased news content producing 130 stories with 75 photos, 60 videos and 35 data graphics. We focused on untold election stories in 2014 and pioneered a crowd-sourced project, Curious New Mexico, in 2015.

If this project works, how might the media organization and academic institution change its practices?

This could be a transformative project for the department. It coincides with the arrival of the first of three “professors of practice” — positions recently created in response to an outside audit that urged strengthening journalism within our department. That outside audit looked at our ties to KUNM-FM, KNME-TV and The Daily Lobo.

If our lab proves successful, it will become THE hub bridging these campus outlets. Upon this hub, we can envision building something bigger, more transformative. Imagine a combined “New Mexico Center for Public Media,” a major public-private initiative for advancing digital media and journalism.

Project update: What is the most important impact of your experiment?

It has to be the spirit of optimism that pervades our program. It’s a revitalizing energy that comes with empowering students to do real-world work and pioneering teaching methods that are right for our times. Considering where our department was and where it is now, this is very significant change.

Other impacts? We would point to 10 awards of merit (three national, seven regional), the three articles our faculty published for PBS MediaShift, the four national conferences and three regional conferences where we presented our project and the overall total of $107,320 we raised to “Support the Port!”

Project update: What additional collaborations/partnerships have resulted from your project?

The News Port has deepened its partnerships more than it has expanded their numbers. (Again, we are working tightly with NMPBS, KUNM, Daily Lobo and New Mexico In Depth.) But we continue to reach out to area media that wish to explore partnering and conversations are underway with several print and online outlets. We have a project in the works that would involve 2016 election coverage in an innovative, multi-platform engagement effort – if we can find added funding for it. (This was discussed with a rep from Democracy Fund at AEJMC.)

In an exciting development, we have started a partnership with UNM’s Innovation Academy to create a Media Entrepreneur course next spring. Not surprisingly, we also have become a springboard for placing interns in internships around the region, because we are brokering many more conversations with local media companies and have a much better handle on which students may make for a good fit.