Over on PBS’ Mediashift blog, USC Annenberg director Geneva Overholser opines on the new role J-schools have adopted in the current media world: test labs for new models of journalism, and, as a result of that experimentation, power players. Of course, living here in Los Angeles, we’re well aware of what the new wave of student journalism can accomplish. USC’s online paper Neon Tommy is the second largest newsroom in the city, behind only the LA Times. That said, we’ll give Overholser her say:
Perhaps the most striking change for journalism schools is the degree to which we have shifted from being learning labs whose actual journalism (if any) was limited in its distribution and impact, to being significant — even major — media players in our communities…
News corporations have experienced substantial economic shock, with several newspaper companies in bankruptcy, many newspapers having folded, and the remaining ones undergoing round after round of severe cuts. Yet the need for those who provide the news to keep an eye primarily on the public interest has not gone away; rather, it has been distributed. There are now multitudes of news providers. How they do their work, and what principles they hold dear, continues to matter greatly.
This opens two interesting arenas for journalism schools. One is the need for research on new economic models to supplement — some would say replace — the models that have been collapsing as the barrier to publication has fallen and new ways of advertising have arisen. This is a center of significant activity in the journalism academy.
Overholser cites USC’s collaboration with the crowdfunded non-profit Spot.us as a successful university-based lab experiment in journalism. We’re inclined to agree.