Media Innovation at Northeastern University

IMG_1479Hedgehogs, geeks, artists and storytellers are all part of Jeff Howe’s vision for a new, journalism education ecosystem at Northeastern University in Boston. 

Howe is an author (Crowdsourcing, 2008) and former writer and editor at Wired. He’s now a Northeastern professor. He envisions a multidisciplinary, learning team at the university.  The idea brings together investigative reporters (he calls them the hedgehogs), computer scientists (he “lovingly” calls them the geeks) and graphic artists who can dream up new ways to visualize stories online.

“And finally a storyteller, because I will need employment in the brave new world, because I write long form narratives…We are in a period where narrative and story telling are more important than ever.”

This graduate level program for experienced journalists would have input from other parts of the university including business, computer science, art and design. Diversity is key.


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“The idea is to bring in constituencies that haven’t always interacted a lot, and bring them together in essentially a newsroom — a university newsroom.”

Howe is a smart, dynamic guy. We found a common interest, as we’re both developing new media courses. He calls his program Media Innovation.

“I think teaching innovation within institutions is really essential, because I think a lot of these kids are going to graduate and they’ll need to shake things up. It’s tremendously important that we make students aware that there is an option that there wasn’t before to create media startups and that’s very exciting.”


Books enterprising Journalists should read

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Entrepreneurial Journalism, Mark Briggs

This book is a great primer for the topic. Briggs is an enterprising  journalist in Seattle where he co-founded the start-up, Serra Media. His other books are used as texts in several journalism courses. I like this book because it gives a lot of great examples of media sites and services that journalists have developed in the past few years. It covers both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, explains the development of business plans and encourages creative risk-taking. He and others at ONA 13 helped me with my Aha moment.

Curation Nation, Steven Rosenbaum

This was recommended to me by the CEO of a small, Ottawa tech firm. It’s written by a journalist and it’s really geared towards people in this industry. I like the history the book provides about very early developers — including the founder of Reader’s digest — a great example of curation long before the internet. Rosenbaum is also an entrepreneur ( His thesis is that the information available on line is developing at break-neck speed and we need people to organize and curate that info — who best to do it but journalists?

Crowdsourcing: How the Power of Crowds is Driving the Future of Business, Jeff Howe

I recently met Jeff Howe at Northeastern University in Boston where he now teaches. This long-time writer at Wired actually coined the phrase, crowdsourcing. This is a really interesting read about how harnessing the crowd has created some very innovative and successful companies and projects. It was written in 2008 so a lot has changed, but this book is still relevant.

The Innovators Dilemma, Clayton Christensen

Christensen is a business administration professor at Harvard. This is not about journalists or journalism, but there’s much to be learned about business and innovation from this book. Christensen also been quoted in important interviews and reports about how his thesis applies to the journalism industry. This author explains what disruptive technology is and how it can drastically change industries and force once stable companies to evolve or die.

What would Google do? Jeff Jarvis

Jarvis teaches Entrepreneurial Journalism at City University New York (CUNY) and writes a blog: Buzzmachine. This book was written in 2009, but again has some lasting examples of how new technology can disrupt an industry. It’s a good book on a company that’s had a massive impact on what we do.

Newsonomics, Ken Doctor

Doctor’s book  has a companion website and blog. He also files frequently for Nieman Journalism Lab. This book has something to offer to journalism students in particular with the chapter: For Journalists’ Jobs It’s Back-to-the-Future. He also talks about the pain reporters and big media needs to endure before making it to the other side.

Where Good Ideas come from, Steven Johnson

Students ask me constantly where I get my ideas. I say, often by exercising critical thinking skills, by networking, sharing and brainstorming. This book isn’t about finding journalism story ideas, rather it’s about entrepreneurship and scientific discovery. It’s about taking risk and using critical thinking to invent. Steven Johnson presents an interesting TED talks about his ideas on the development of innovation.