October 26, 2016

The journalism industry is changing quickly. And journalism schools often are slow to catch up.

That’s according to Jeff Jarvis, the director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. At many journalism schools, Jarvis said, it can take three years to get a new course into the curriculum. For an industry that can be shaken up over the course of a few months, that’s eons.

“Journalism education has to get very good at change. Rapid change,” Jarvis said. “The field is changing very quickly and we have to keep up with it.”

Jarvis and CUNY will have plenty of help navigating the ever-shifting business of journalism. This morning, the Knight Foundation announced that it will continue its support of the Tow-Knight Center with $3.5 million in new funding. The center’s other primary funder, the Tow Foundation, is also continuing its support after helping found the center six years ago.

The Tow-Knight Center will use the money to continue its work of fostering entrepreneurial journalism, identifying major trends shaping the news business and staying on top of the skills students need to get a job in journalism.

Since it was founded in 2010, the Tow-Knight Center has undertaken several initiatives aimed at rethinking the way educators prepare students for the workplace. In 2014, Jarvis announced that CUNY was developing a MA in social journalism, a degree that was ultimately finalized in less than a year.

The center has also created the first degree in entrepreneurial journalism and has served as an incubator of sorts for projects including Skillcrush, Narratively and Purple.

“If you look at what they’ve done for the field and for journalism education, CUNY has been a real pioneer for both the field and their support for journalism education,” said Jennifer Preston, vice president of journalism at the Knight Foundation. “They’ve supported journalists in their efforts to become entrepreneurs and adopting an audience-first focus.”

CUNY is a relatively new graduate school, having gotten its start in 2004. Its newness and entrepreneurial spirit give it the sensibility of a startup, Preston said.

“They do so much to advance the field of journalism that I think we forget sometimes how young this graduate school of journalism is,” she said.

Going forward, the Tow-Knight Center will focus its efforts on several new projects, Jarvis said. In the works is a degree program that focuses on developing leadership capabilities among young journalists who have been promoted but find themselves without many of the skills that veterans often have.

The center is also planning to focus on developing “communities of practice,” groups of industry professionals who can give professors and students a window onto the changing business of media by serving as a kind of brain trust. Those groups will be convened in-person and online, including with Slack and Google Hangouts.

In addition, the center will be exploring the idea of competency-based education, the process of promoting students based on mastery of skills rather than completing an arbitrary number of classroom hours. They’ll also further develop the concept of journalistic “superpowers,” subject area specialties that students need to succeed after graduation.

All of the work, Jarvis said, will be aimed at asking students — not professional journalists or faculty — reinvent journalism.

“After Gutenberg invented the press, it took 150 years to invent the newspaper,” Jarvis said. “We have to look at new relationships, new forms and new models.”

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
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