Incubating a collaboratory

Journalists, entrepreneurs, academics, and experts from the worlds of technology and business will gather on January 21, 2009 at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute for a one-day Talkfest called “Putting Feet on the Streets for Journalism.” The participants’ challenge: to develop plans for the RJI Collaboratory, a news organization incubator.

This is why: In 2008, traditional news organizations continued to shrink or close their doors. They laid off more than 15,000 journalists, resulting in a significant loss of good journalism so vital to U.S. citizens and our democracy. Dozens of communities now have little or no coverage of their local health issues, their local environment, or their local government. Some no longer have reporters, no journalism at all in their communities.

That trend is likely to accelerate in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Web continues to provide fertile ground for new social/news/information organizations, hundreds of which have appeared over the last few years and are thriving, including, MinnPost,,, Huffington Post, BlogHer, (which is now part of, the St. Louis Beacon, and Marketwatch.

There’s a need for hundreds, perhaps thousands, more.

Over the last three months, a group of people — RJI staff and fellows, School of Journalism faculty and staff — met several times to brainstorm about establishing a news organization incubator.

Here’s our working concept:

The RJI Collaboratory would work with entrepreneurial journalists, citizens and organizations to create strategies and tools for high-quality Web-based journalism.

These are the people and organizations the RJI Collaboratory would serve:

  • entrepreneurial journalists with talent, experience, a good idea, but few resources and little knowledge on how to start an effective Web-based news organization;
  • existing news organizations that are developing transformational strategies to adapt to a Webcentric world.
  • news/information organizations founded by non-journalists;

These are the services and guidance that the RJI Collaboratory might offer.

  • Advertising strategies and techniques – sales, service, creation, production
  • Web shell (information architecture) and design services
  • Resources of skills and tools to help journalists do Webcentric reporting
  • Story, issue, beat and advertising templates
  • Legal and regulatory guidance
  • Technology primers
  • Business planning and practices – human resources, bookkeeping, taxes, regulations
  • Content management systems and guidance
  • Networking services
  • Creation and testing of editorial, advertising and business tools
  • User survey and other usability and impact research

Here’s how we might go about providing those services.

  • Through social networks of entrepreneurial journalists with similar and overlapping interests;
  • As free information via the Web and other platforms to support improvements in editorial, advertising and business practices.
  • Skill and knowledge-building bootcamps on a wide variety of technology and process issues
  • Contract consulting to address intense local or special interest issues
  • Start-up support for an array of companies that provide software applications or services to journalists and to complex journalistic endeavors on a license or subscription basis. These could include advertising networks and such services as the Information Valet Project.

These are the starting points for our discussion in January. We anticipate that the people who attend the Talkfest on Jan. 21 will collaborate to develop a workable plan, some of which we can implement right away.

For More Information Contact

Jane Stevens, 707-495-1112


Comments are closed.