It’s about a decade since the idea of News21 surfaced among strong deans at some of America’s great journalism schools at great American research universities.
News21 was an idea that would give support and wings to student ideas around serious journalism and new ways to engage audiences. News 21 would live at the J schools and create new laboratories for change that could influence the industry.
Failure—either in project ideas or in execution—was allowable. The financial collapse of news organizations didn’t allow wild ideas to take root. Failure was not an option. But at universities, experimentation is the coin of the realm and Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Knight Foundation believed experimentation was a must in journalism.
I was there at the beginning. When Eric Newton of Knight and I thought the deans had hit on something exciting with the idea of summer well-funded incubators for in-depth reporting and experimentation at great journalism schools. Ten years later, I am now a dean at one of the schools that continues that summer incubator for serious reporting.
I realize I am biased. I think UNC’s J-school and its Powering the Nation, an energy-focused version of News21(that continues even after the foundation support has ended), is sustainable and worth the effort. This summer’s focus on the hog industry and its potential as both a way of life and an energy source re-enforced the power of the idea. Whole Hog is another great year of reporting and of pushing the envelope.
When I read this article about a recent UNC Masters Degree grad from UNC, I felt double-y proud: at the legacy of the idea behind News21 and at what Powering the Nation and graduates like Josh Davis have been able to do.
But don’t read me – read what I discovered in this interview in Ochre by a young journalist. She was at a crossroads in her life and wanted to know where real journalism innovation lives—at the University or in the news industry? Her question: Who Leads?
Made my heart leap to find that idea ten years ago has created a legacy in terms of work and in terms of talent. At Carnegie and Knight we bet on the pipeline of a new generation of young journalists – we bet right.