Wednesday, 07 July 2010 14:54

Report on Entrepreneurial Journalism syndicate discussion: Day 1

Written by  Muda Ganiyu

Encouraging students to be job creators rather than job seekers was a key argument during Tuesday's first of two World Journalism Education Congress syndicate discussions on entreprenurial journalism. The definition and role of entrepreneurs, and their role within journalism education, was also explored.

Expert: Dan Gillmor

Chair: Remzi Lani

Rapporteur: Muda Ganiyu

After  he was introduced by the chairman of the session, the Expert and Guest Speaker, Dan Gillmor, began by defining entreprenuership, which he says is:

  1. Owning of a business – not necessarilly in terms of stock ownership, but of going through a process and achieving an outcome;
  2. Learning to respond to ambiguity and change;
  3. Innovation - putting things in different ways to achieve different results; and
  4. Focusing on the business.


That the process of entreprenuership involves:

  1. Starting something you care about; that you’re passionate about;
  2. Getting it online quickly;
  3. Not waiting until your website is perfect or you have all the answers; and
  4. Improving as you go along.


He talked about the Silicon Valley model which involves deciding how you want to finance your enterprise, and

  1. Launching before inviting investors
  2. Deciding how much control you want to exercise in relation with other stock holders.

After this brief presentation, Gillmor threw the floor open for  participants to make contributions based on his methodology of teaching the course, which doesn’t provide answers. Students have to find answers to the kind of project they are interested in doing.

*He talked about the teaching of entreprenuerial journalism being cross-disciplinary with students having to take courses in other departments and faculties such business school, and ICT.

*However, students or entreprenuerial journalists need not be experts in ICT or business, but they must have basic grounding.

*On the cost of setting up, he mentioned the use of Open Source software.

Gillmor was asked to give examples his students had carried out previously, some of which were:

  1. Online community of film-makers
  2. Tweeting and SMS on multimedia signage
  3. Mobile-based system of offering help to immigrants, and others.

Some participants expressed discomfort about having an uncertain syllabus, whereby students would not know what to do from the beginning to the end of the semester ion reference to Gillmor’s method of leaving the syllabus open after the first few weeks of the semester.

Questions raised on this include:

  1. How to deal with students’ expectations;
  2. How to make a programme with an uncertain syllabus attractive to students
  3. How to deal with faculty colleagues.

Gillmor was of the view that teachers should be able to understand how (journalsim) business works.

Another issue raised is the difference between being enterprising and being entreprenuerial.  Gillmor pointed out two sides to entreprenuership:

  1. Identifying an idea or opportunity;
  2. Coaliscing the idea into something new;
  3. Identifying something that people need or that solves a problem;
  4. Anticipating something that does not exist; or
  5. Doing something that exists better.

*He’s of the opinion that technology should get talked about last.

Someone then raised the issue of how to grade students. What happens where projects embarked about a student or a group of students fails?

Gillmor: “Projects are important, but even if a project fails, the student can still get an ‘A”.

Meaning that students are not necessarilly graded on the success of their projects, as another participant poited out, but on their efforts. After all many start-ups fail. But did the student make a genuine effort? Did he follow a process?

*To help students understand the process of entreprenuerial journalism, Gillmor said people who have been successful are brought in regularly for hands-on experience with the students.

Another person raised the issue of how to contextualize entreprenuerial journalism in the African context given the low penetration of technology.

*Gillmor pointed out that:

i.   Mobile is the medium for Africa

ii. That radio is still popular, and that

  1. The principles of entrepreneurship are not vastly different from one society to another.

However, another participant pointed out that in his institution, all students, whatever their discipline do a course on entrepreneurship, but that in the journalism department, they encourage students to think of being job creators, rather than be job seeker, through:

  1. Engaging in freelance journalism, and photojournalism
  2. Become bloggers
  3. Setting up as independent radio/TV producers
  4. Becoming community newspaper publishers.

This brought to an end our discussions on a day one.

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