• By Newmark J-School Staff

The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism has been awarded two $3 million grants to help it establish the nation’s most intensive program in entrepreneurial journalism with the creation of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism and the first Master of Arts degree in Entrepreneurial Journalism.

The $10 million Tow-Knight Center will receive $3 million in funding from The Tow Foundation of Wilton, Conn. and $3 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, supplemented by additional foundation grants and in-kind contributions of staff and technology from the CUNY J-School.

The Tow Foundation got the ball rolling in June 2008 by issuing a $3 million challenge grant to help support journalistic innovation and shape the future of the media industry. The grant required the CUNY J-School to raise an equal amount in matching funds, which it achieved on September 13 when the Knight Foundation board approved its $3 million award.

Executive Director Emily Tow Jackson said The Tow Foundation had become “concerned about the fate of print journalism in the digital age and the impact of its decline on the health of our democracy.” The organization “challenged the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism to seek and devise solutions to protect and maintain journalistic standards and to be an incubator for the development of viable economic models for the new digital media. We are delighted that the Knight Foundation has stepped forward to join us in supporting this important work.”

Eric Newton, vice-president of the Knight Foundation’s journalism program, said CUNY had good ideas about how to cope with the changing economics of journalism. “It wants to lead the emerging field of entrepreneurial journalism, to give students skill sets in the fields of both journalism and business,” he said.

The Center, which opens in October, will work to create a sustainable future for quality journalism in three ways:

• Education of students and mid-career journalists in innovation and business management;
• Research into relevant topics, such as new business models for news;
• Development of new journalistic enterprises.

Professor Jeff Jarvis, who directs the School’s interactive program, will head the Center, reporting to Founding Dean Stephen B. Shepard, former editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek. Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do? already teaches a course in entrepreneurial journalism and has done Knight-supported research on new business models for news, which he presented at the Aspen Institute last summer.

In conjunction with the Tow-Knight Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism plans to launch a new Master of Arts degree in Entrepreneurial Journalism, the first ever. It will be a two-year program for select students, adding business training and research to the School’s existing three-semester M.A. degree in Journalism. Students will be trained to launch their own enterprises or work within traditional media companies.

Faculty members are developing courses for the new M.A. degree. The courses, which will be pilot-tested next spring, are expected to teach business and management skills, the new dynamics of news and media economics, and technology and project management, with apprenticeships at New York startups. Upon approval by the New York State Education Department, the first entrepreneurial degrees are expected to be awarded in the spring of 2012, to students currently enrolled in the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

The School also plans to open the courses to mid-career professional journalists who would earn a new Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism upon completion of the program.

“With our emphasis on new technology and our research experience in new business models for news, we believe we can help build a sustainable future for journalism,” Shepard said. “What Stanford and MIT bring to the technology industry in nurturing innovation, we believe journalism also needs. We hope to meet that need with the Tow-Knight Center.”

Shepard said the Tow-Knight Center is a natural outgrowth of the School’s work in new business models for news and entrepreneurship. Last year, the School, did pioneering research on a new approach to local news. Jarvis’s existing course in entrepreneurial journalism has encouraged several graduates to incubate new businesses. The School has also held three conferences on the topic and is working with The New York Times and on hyperlocal content and business models in Brooklyn.

“We are optimists about the future of journalism,” Jarvis said. “We tell our students they will build that future. To help them do that, we realized we have to give them the ability to create and run new products and new companies. We must train not just journalists but entrepreneurial journalists.”