Michelle Ferrier pitches mobile app at Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute

Professors from the U.S. and Canada learned what it feels like to be a student again at the Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute at Arizona State University last week, including Communications associate professor Michelle Ferrier.

Some cringed at new technology. Some were bewildered by new vocabulary. Some did homework during presentations or waited until the last minute to get their business pitches done for the final project.

However, these 15 communications professors walked away with the tools to teach in the new area of digital entrepreneurship. They were part of the institute’s inaugural class, held at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication from Jan. 3-8, which was designed to help infuse journalism entrepreneurship into the journalism school curriculum.

“Journalism graduates are entering a diverse and quickly evolving marketplace,” said Dan Gillmor of ASU’s Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship and author of Mediactive and We the Media. “They need to understand and appreciate the startup culture — ambiguity, rapid response, creativity and innovation and ownership of processes and outcomes. They may not end up starting their own enterprises, but they will find these skills valuable even in large companies that are adapting to new conditions.”

Ferrier pitched a new type of community news delivery using mobile phones. Carla Kimbrough of University of Nebraska-Lincoln pitched a news and information site for travel. Jake Batsell of Southern Methodist University traded on rising paranoia and pitched a crime alert for neighborhoods.

“The pitch helped crystallize the content we learned during the week,” Ferrier said. “And it simulated the high-pressure environment of a startup…or at least the beginnings of one.”

The professors learned from experts in venture capital, media startups and nonprofit management. They learned content development, business strategy, web analytics, social media marketing and search engine optimization from media thought leaders such as Jeff Jarvis of City University of New York and author of What Would Google Do?; Jan Schaffer of American University’s J-Lab; Retha Hill, director of Cronkite’s New Media Innovation lab; Mark Briggs, author of Entrepreneurial Journalism and Journalism Next, Richard Gingras, head of news products for Google and Mark Luckie, who spearheads the Washington Post’s social media first strategy development and is the author of The Digital Journalist’s Handbook.

“The institute brought home the importance of bringing a spirit of creativity, innovation and failure to the journalism school curriculum. What we learned goes beyond journalism to focus on the entrepreneurial spirit and education as a whole,” said Ferrier.

Ferrier plans to develop a journalism entrepreneurship class in Winter Term 2013 at Elon and other participants must also teach such a course at their institutions. However, Gillmor said, the institute wasn’t designed to have professors replicate the institute’s process or ASU’s course.

“We want you all to go out and take this innovation into your own classes and do something different than what we did,” he said. “We want to learn from what works for you.”