A look behind the scenes at News21

Journalism / Article

This month’s Carnegie Reporter magazine contains an in-depth feature about the News21 Initiative, a Knight-Carnegie collaboration we’ve written about before. From the story:

From the start, the News21 fellows have faced two daunting challenges: to come up with stories of national importance and to tell them in ways that break the mold of traditional news media. The deans regarded innovation and invention as the higher priority. ‘The experimental was the most important side of this. Otherwise, it was just a really rich, pleasant internship program,’ said Alex S. Jones, the Shorenstein Center director. Geoffrey Cowan, former dean of the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, said he envisioned News21 as the journalism school equivalent of an engineering school laboratory, only this one ‘would be about inventing what journalistic storytelling could be like.’

Former Berkeley journalism school dean Orville Schell, another of the original deans, had a practical objective in mind, too. He was dismayed at the paucity of openings in the broadcast news business’a particular strength of Berkeley’s’and believed News21 could help fill that void. ‘I’d been sitting at too many meetings where people lamented that the serious media were melting away before their eyes,’ said Schell, now Arthur Ross Director of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. ‘There were big gaps in the journalistic food chain, like a salmonrun with no salmon ladders.’ […]

In the tradition of Knight’s Eric Newton, who puckishly told a News21 gathering in 2008 that their task was ‘to think about new forms of truth-telling…in a totally new technological era, and create some innovations that will help keep the human race from destroying itself. No pressure,’ Callahan told the fellows that they ‘really need to dream.’

‘If what you accomplish at the end of the summer is having produced fantastic stories that are really interesting and really important and really matter and have never been told before and you get them published in the Washington Post or The New York Times or the Los Angeles Times’if that’s what we accomplish this summer, we fail. We fail miserably,’ he said. ‘News21 needs to go far beyond that.’

You can read the rest of the story in this PDF, and go to the News21 site.