March 15, 2011

The Role of Universities in Furthering INN Members’ Success

A week ago, INN CEO Kevin Davis was an honored guest at the School of Journalism & Mass Communication here in Boulder. As our spring semester 2011 Hearst Professional-in-Residence, for two days he spoke in classes and engaged with the students, presented a lunchtime lecture, and met individually with SJMC faculty members and students. It's fair to say that his visit not only made the SJMC population more aware of the challenges and opportunities facing investigative journalism, but also raised the level of enthusiasm about non-partisan, nonprofit reporting in the public interest.

But Davis' Boulder visit wasn't just about inspiring and educating students and journalism faculty. On the Saturday prior to his Hearst stint, Davis and I co-led a one-day symposium on the CU campus exploring innovations in business models to support nonprofit investigative news organizations. The aim was to identify and ponder new revenue sources and business models that might lessen INN members' reliance on foundation funding and philanthropic grants.

We invited a mix of individuals for presentations, roundtable brainstorming and discussion. Participants and speakers came from several disciplines and perspectives, from on- and off-campus:

While symposium participants did not solve the puzzle that is finding better ways to finance investigative journalism -- we didn't expect that much in one day!-- they did get an in-depth conversation going and, according to Davis, covered some important ground.

From the on-campus perspective, I was thrilled to be able to insert INN into the university environment, where Davis and several INN member publishers heard feedback from scholars, as well as campus outsiders eager to help out the cause of furthering non-profit investigative journalism at a time when corporate news media largely have dropped the ball on investigative reporting.

While INN joined us in Boulder for a short while, I hope that it is the beginning of a long relationship with CU and the many campus assets that can be leveraged to further the success of INN's members. My SJMC program, the Digital Media Test Kitchen, stands ready to do more.

I encourage INN members also to look to their own neighboring universities and colleges for support. But may I suggest that the Journalism department or school is not the only campus door worth knocking on. Just as at CU-Boulder, you may find help and ideas from other disciplines: Business, Entrepreneurship, Law, Computer Science, and more.

For coverage of the symposium, go to this webpage:

Steve Outing is founder and director of the Digital Media Test Kitchen at CU-Boulder, ... He can be reached at