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You're invited to help plan a news-organization "incubator"

You're invited to participate in a one-day Talkfest -- "Putting Feet on the Streets for Journalism" -- to develop plans for a news-organization incubator. The free Talkfest will be held on Wed., Jan. 21, 2009 at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, in Columbia, Mo.

The name of the incubator is the RJI Collaboratory. Many of us at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the Missouri School of Journalism think it's a critical -- and opportune -- time to establish 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 MaxPreps.com, MinnPost, WestSeattleblog.com, TheKnot.com, Huffington Post, BlogHer, Politico, the St. Louis Beacon, CSTV.com (which is now part of CBSSportsline.com), and Marketwatch.

We think the RJI Collaboratory could provide resources and knowledge on how to start effective and successful Web-based news organizations. Those who could benefit from the news organization incubator are entrepreneurial mid-career journalists, and existing news organizations that are undertaking the transformational strategies necessary to adapt to a Webcentric world.

Learn more:


These are some of the aspects of a news organization incubator that we need to figure out, and why we're asking you to participate:

    • What does a news organization incubator do exactly? We think an incubator can provide advertising strategies and techniques, technology services,
    business planning, Web shell (information architecture/structure or organization of information) and design services, and ethics guidelines. But what else? And how does it provide its guidance and services?
    • What roles can other colleges and departments of the University of Missouri play in a news organization incubator? Could computer science
    students develop online services for entrepreneurial journalists? Could business school students work with entrepreneurial journalists to develop robust organizations?
    • What could an incubator do in the first year? The second year? The third year?
    • What does a news organization incubator need to get started?
    • Does a news organization incubator derive funding from the organizations it nurtures? If so, how? If the news organization incubator is part of
    the university, what is the incubator's intellectual property policy?
    • How does the news organization incubator develop partnerships with other centers or journalism schools?
    • How does the news organization incubator develop partnerships with organizations that might be interested in funding start-ups?

During the one-day event, we'll meet together in the morning to show you some successful Web-based news organizations. We'll discuss why we think a news organization incubator is necessary, and identify issues that entrepreneurial journalists and existing news organizations face as they make the transition to becoming Webcentric news organizations.

In the afternoon, we'll meet in working groups to address particular issues in starting a news organization incubator, and how it will function. The approaches developed in those groups will serve as the foundation for a plan for the RJI Collaboratory.


There is no charge for attending the RJI Collaboratory Talkfest. The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute has underwritten the cost of planning, facilities and box lunches for participants because we want to make sure that entrepreneurial journalists, educators, and experts from the world of technology and business can add their voice to the planning process without cost beyond traveling to Columbia, MO. We'd like the Collaboratory to recognize, highlight and support related efforts nationwide.

We hope you are able to join us. To have a productive conversation, we're limiting the in-person attendance to 60 people. Please let us know as soon as possible if you can attend. Send an email to RJI Fellow Jane Stevens (jstevens@mmjourno.com), or call 707-495-1112.


Getting to Columbia is easy. You can fly into either the St. Louis or Kansas City airports (St. Louis is about 20 minutes closer). Both are served by all major carriers. In addition, Northwest Airlines operates three daily flights from Memphis to the Columbia Regional Airport, about 15 minutes from campus and the Reynolds Institute. For more, see: GETTING TO AND STAYING IN COLUMBIA.

For those of you who are out of town and can't make the trek to Columbia, but still want to tune in, send an email to jstevens@mmjourno.com, and we'll set up a way for you to tap into the conference through Adobe Connect.

Jane Ellen Stevens, Fellow, 2008-2009
Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute
University of Missouri
Associate faculty
Knight Digital Media Center, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
MOBILE: 707-495-1112

Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute
Missouri School of Journalism
Columbia MO 65211