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Charting a Brave New Course for Business Journalism

Randall Smith, a Reynolds Center endowed chair at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, recalls how a conversation with David Cohn, founder and director of SF-LA focused Spot.us, led to the spark for a new business journalism course. He wound up hashing it all out one weekend with Missouri prof Tom Stam:

Our goal was to teach our students about business and to write a lot about it. They would be exposed to the inner most workings of a company: budgets, senior executives and industry dynamics. The project would require a lot of work. Stam recruited two other business professors to help teach, and I found five businesses that either had a new idea or problem that could use help from a highly motivated student team.

Along with Spot.us, Smith and Stam secured the participation of AP, Silcon Valley start-up Kachingle, the Chicago Sun-Times, and LA’s Media & Policy Center. As Smith goes on to detail, many valuable lessons were learned during this inaugural 2010 graduate course, with some of the MBA and Ph.D. students choosing to shift afterwards to more of a journalism focus.

“I wish they had a class like that when I was a graduate student working on my masters in journalism,” Cohn tells Smith. “I would have learned a ton of practical skills along with a deeper appreciation of running a business.”

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