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The Nuts and Bolts of College Media Innovation

October 3, 2009

The faces of the journalists are younger and younger. The teams at CoPress and Publish2 include new grads and some people who are still in college. Lee Byron graduated from Carnegie Mellon in 2008 and left a job a the New York Times to work with Facebook. Working in college media gives us the opportunity and a great environment to explore our ideas. The question is, how do you do it?

Panelists at the “From Journalist to Entrepreneur” session at the 2009 Online News Association conference in San Francisco say it’s time to stop thinking and start doing. Om Malik, founder/CEO of GigaOM, said this is the best time for young journalists to try out ideas.

“The only option for people in our profession is to take a chance,” he told conference participants Saturday morning.  He also said it’s important not to rely on the classroom to learn entreprenuer tools.

“You go to college to be the CEO of Enron,” he said. “You drop out of college to be Mark Zuckerberg.”

While the other panelists didn’t encourage becoming a college dropout as a way to innovate, they also pushed the carpe diem approach.

Ann Grimes, acting director of the graduate journalism program at Stanford University, said it’s important for students to be realistic about their skillset and to work with others who can compliment them.

“You’re not a technologist. You’re not a software coder,” she said. “If you’re a journalist, you probably don’t come from that angle. Let those people deal with that problem.”

The panelists also discussed failure, which is never a fun topic for journalists. However, in the startup environment they stressed that it’s important to fail early and accept failure as just another rite of passage.

“One of the toughest things we’ve seen with our students who have tried to move from reporting to the business side is they think they know the answer,” Grimes said. “You have to take that idea, test it out, come up with a new prototype, go back out, get new feedback and then refine your idea.”

So don’t just sit there, what are you waiting for?

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