Phillip Smith

Are legacy media organizations the place where news innovations go to die?

“I am passionate about both news innovation and the proliferation of openness and I want to see both concepts make significant progress.” – Geoff Samek

Hey there Geoff, I’m glad to see that we’re on the same page with regards to the outcomes that we’re both passionate about, and I’m to carry on this conversation at BarCamp News Innovation Philly this weekend. (Have you got a session idea ready?)

Here are some quick responses to your latest post:

“Legacy media organizations are where brilliant news innovations go to die.”

Having recently had the opportunity to meet a whole bunch of innovators that are working inside of legacy media organizations, I just don’t believe that these people have hung up their spurs and put aside the notion of innovating inside their respective organizations.

To the contrary, I do see a fair bit of innovation happening inside of established news organization, just take Jonathan Stray (Associated Press), Andy Carvin (NPR), or Hari Sreenivasan (PBS Newshour), for example.

“What I really want to know, is how putting the very best and brightest news hackers in large media companies will proliferate the concept of the open web.”

It’s really quite simple.

Take a quick look at other fellowship programs around the world, for example the Knight fellowship at Stanford, the Reynolds Journalism Institute fellowship, the Shuttleworth Fellowship, or the Massey College journalism fellowship right here in Toronto.

These fellowships are an opportunity for people like Wendy Norris, Dave Cohen, or Mozilla’s own Mark Surman to step back from the day-to-day, and to focus on big-picture questions or projects that all too often get overlooked.

Here’s a practical example: Burt Herman, an AP bureau chief with more than ten years working as a reporter, accepts a Knight fellowship at Stanford where he works at the design school to explore the future of journalism. Today, Burt is putting meaning back into the term ‘entrepreneurial journalism’ through his award-winning start-up, Storify. Tools like Storify, and Document Cloud, are changing the way people produce news, and the way that news is consumed by users, and – thus – they are changing the Web.

“The concern being that your MoJo fellows might flourish as well as a Saber-toothed tiger stuck in the LaBrae Tar Pits.”

Let me conclude with this:

We don’t see our news partners as dinosaurs. We see them as hubs of important conversations about the future of the Web, journalism, and – more broadly – civic engagement and public participation in everyday life.

Will there be challenges for the MoJo fellows? No doubt. But what fun is life without a few healthy challenges to overcome?

See you this weekend!


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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