CU-Boulder’s Outing Offers Multi-layered Glimpse of Journalism’s Future

Online Media Thought Leader Steve Outing gave the keynote address via Skype Thursday night those attending the Convergence Conference at The University of South Carolina in Columbia.

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COLUMBIA, S.C.– When it comes to fostering a new way of thinking about journalism and, perhaps, journalism education, one can’t go wrong by looking at Steve Outing and the University of Colorado-Boulder for visions of innovation, whether or not you agree.

Thursday night  the former newspaper editor and writer of the widely read “Stop the Presses” Editor & Publisher Column for more than 10 years, told those here at the Convergence & Society Conference how eBooks may replace college textbooks in two years while poking fun at newspapers and magazines that still make it more expensive for customers who don’t want their print editions.

On his web site, Outing describes himself as “a thought leader in the online media industry and on news innovation and digital transformation.”  And in spite of a recent bike accident that kept him grounded in Colorado, Outing delivered some thoughts that still have me scratching my head.

Steve Outing of Digital Media Test Kitchen delivered a keynote address at USC's Convergence Conference via Skype Thursday night. A bike accident kept him grounded in Boulder, Colo.

As a national board member of the Society of Professional Journalists, I, along with many of my fellow journalism educators, have spent the last year or so, criticizing the officials at CU-Boulder for dismantling the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

While the University proceeds with the formation of a new “college of information, communication, media and technology,” many of us outside of Boulder hold the institution up as an example of WHAT NOT TO DO if we want to preserve the future of journalism

Even so,  Outing’s Digital Media Test Kitchen is cooking up some ideas that, like it or not, we journalism educators who mostly worked in legacy media outlets (newspapers, radio and television stations), have to at least taste.

“It’s fairly new and we’re still finding our way,” Outing said in describing his applied research center.  “A big part of it is we’re collaborating with other parts of the University as well as local and non-local start-up companies.”

So far, the Digital News Test Kitchen has been researching new business models for college media that don’t involve a print edition, developing news games and tackling issues such as news source quality and credibility, article veracity and accuracy.

Among the ideas about sustainable news organizations in this period of digital transition Outing let us sample from his Test Kitchen Thursday were the following:

  • Newspapers should be more like The Guardian, which has committed 80% of its resources on its digital edition while only spending 20% on the print edition
  • Newspapers are doing a much better job than magazines of producing recyclable versions of their print editions
  • The quick adoption of tablet computers and the public’s embrace of eReaders suggest the time for students using just eBooks as textbooks is a couple of years away
  • eReaders present an awesome opportunity for those producing news
  • The next big thing that we need to be looking at is the environmental impact of digital media

Outing noted that he was affiliated with what he called an “infamous journalism program that last year was a School.”

Whatever CU-Boulder does with its program, Outing’s Test Kitchen may represent the wave of the future both in form and message– academic units without the “journalism-centric” nameplate that are not just embracing, but accelerating the demise of dead-tree editions of news publications.

I say this as I will scurry to the newsstand Friday morning to find a copy of The State newspaper, Columbia’s McClatchy-owned daily.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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