Entrepreneurial Journalism (COM 480), Spring 2016

Dr. Christopher Anderson
Class Time / Room: Monday & Wednesday, 2:30-4:25 / 3S 112
My Office: 1P / Room 232A
Office Hours: Monday, 1:0-2:30; Wednesday 1:00 – 2:30

Required Texts

    • Online Course Reader
    • Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect (3rd Revised and Updated Edition)

Course Learning Objectives 

  • To understand the current state of the journalism industry: its economic difficulties, the growth of DIY media, the rise of social media and “data-journalism,” and the prospects for reinvention.
  • To produce an entrepreneurial journalism “project plan” that will meet an existing media market need.
  • To have a keener sense of how to get a job in the current journalism job market.
  • To become a more intelligent consumer and producer of media content.

Course Description

The world of journalism as we know it is undergoing a fundamental transformation. Many of the stylistic conventions, technologies, and media business models that were common in the industry only a few years ago have changed completely. No one knows, actually, what the future of journalism—as either a job or an industry—will be, including your professor.

All anyone does seem to know is that we are in the midst of a period of flux and experimentation in the journalism industry, and that many people – especially young people—are coming up with new companies, products, and ideas for what the future of journalism will be. We call these people “journalism entrepreneurs,” and you will be assuming the role of a journalism entrepreneur in this class. In short, you are going to be coming up with a new journalism business, based on an understanding of both journalism and business.

Course Requirements

This is the grading breakdown for the course. To receive a passing grade for the class, students must meet all requirements. Missed assignments will automatically result in a failing grade.

Because this is both an upper-level college class and a practically oriented classes designed to help students produce an entrepreneurial “project plan” to meet an existing media-market need, you will have both practically oriented assignments and scholarly readings. If you are confused by any of the readings, or are having trouble keeping up, please be certain to come see me during my office hours right away.

Participation 10%

Quizes 10%

In Class Drill Assignments 20%

Midterm 25%

Final Project 35%

General Class Structure

If you look ahead to your schedule of classes, you’ll see that this class consists of three basic elements: readings, lectures, and drills and discussion.

Readings: You will be expected to complete a number of readings over the course of the semester, and your knowledge of these readings will be tested on the midterm as well as on in-class quizzes. Some of the readings will be found in The Elements of Journalism, by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. The rest of your readings can be found online as part of your online course packet. You many want to print these readings out, so make sure you have access to a good printer when you download them.

Lectures: At least the early part of most classes will consist of a lecture and some general discussion of the topic at hand. These lectures are not a substitute for the readings, but rather compliment and expand upon them.

Drills and Discussion: On many weeks, you will be given either an in-class work assignment that you will complete, or will be given a longer assignment as homework that you will then discuss in small groups. Most of these assignments will be geared toward preparing you to complete your final assignment: an entrepreneurial journalism “project plan”

Media Consumption: You will expected to read, on a daily basis, the following websites:

* Columbia Journalism Review < http://www.cjr.org/ >

* Nieman Lab (to which I occasionally contribute) < http://www.niemanlab.org/>

This is not an optional assignment; the future of journalism is a continual “work in progress,” and the only way to know what is going to happen in the media industry is to stay continually informed. You should take weekly notes on your readings, because you will need to go back and refer to them often.

Quizes: There will be daily quizzes on the readings Nieman Lab and CJR readings 

Midterm Test

You will have a midterm that will test your knowledge of both the assigned readings and your regular consumption of online content (discussed above).

Final Project

The completion of a large final project is the primary purpose of this class, and will thus count for 35% of your final grade.

The project will be the description of a new journalism business that you want to create, and that you need money in order to build. You will be pretending that you are trying to raise money for the project, and are making a presentation to a group of funders who may or may not give you money, depending on the quality of your project.

You will be working on various parts of this project over the course of the entire semester, but ultimately, you will be responsible for putting together the entire package at the conclusion of the term. The parts of the project will include:

  • A project description
  • An elevator pitch
  • A need statement
  • A democracy statement
  • A rough operating plan
  • A funding request


Students are expected to attend every session of “Entrepreneurial Journalism.” According to college policy, unexcused absences exceeding 15% of course hours can result in a WU grade. 15% of the classes in this class would be two sessions or more. Bottom line: don’t miss class.

In the event that a student must miss a class due to religious observance or family emergency, students must provide advance notice, in writing, of days missed. In the event of class missed due to illness, students must provide the instructor with a doctors’ note. No exceptions.


Plagiarism is a major—perhaps the major—academic offense a student can commit as an undergraduate, graduate student, or as a scholar. Plagiarism is defined as either (1) failure to acknowledge the source of ideas not one’s own or (2) failure to indicate verbatim expressions not one’s own through quotation marks and footnotes. Plagiarism is a growing problem on college campuses across the nation, largely due to growing technological ease in accessing already composed papers and sources of information. For this reason, I personally will be relentlessly unforgiving regarding any suspected cases of plagiarism this semester—and I will check. There will probably not be a second chance in this regard, and I will recommend the strict enforce university policy for all cases of plagiarism. Bottom line: don’t do it. If you have any questions, please talk to me before you write rather than afterward. For more information, see the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity: http://www1.cuny.edu/academics/info-central/policies.html. For a guide on how to cite your sources well, see http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/?option=com_content&view=article&id=130

In order to ensure a respectful and attentive classroom environment, electronic devices (mobile phones, PDAs, digital music players, etc.) must be turned off and stored during class. Use of such devices during class time is prohibited without permission granted by the professor, in cases of real emergency. Unapproved use of such devices (web-surfing, text-messaging, etc.) in class will count as unexcused lateness.

That said, there will be times when we use the internet for in-class assignments, so you should make sure you are prepared.

Schedule of Classes

February 1

Class Introduction

February 3


February 8 

READING DUE: Anderson, “How journalists’ self-concepts hindered their adaptation to a digital world”

IN-CLASS PODCAST & DISCUSSION, “C.W. Anderson on metro newspapers’ decline

DRILL: My journalistic future.

HOMEWORK: Initial write-up project description.

== PART ONE ==


February 10  

DUE: “Project Description.”

READING DUE: Kovatch and Rosenstiel, “Introduction,” and “Chapter One,” from The Elements of Journalism. Burns: “Inappropriate Behavior,” from Infamous Scribblers.

LECTURE: What is journalism?

February 17

SCREENING: All the Presidents Men

February 22

DISCUSSION: What is the “classic “journalistic ideology of All the President’s Men?

DRILL: How does my company serve democracy?


== PART TWO ==


February 29

READING DUE: “Four reasons why an open-source newsroom is harder than it looks: Lessons from Al Jazeera.” (Usher and Lewis); “Goosing the Grey Lady.”

LECTURE: Computer programming, data, and the news

GUEST SPEAKER: Jacqui Maher, formerly of the New York Times, currently with the BBC

HOMEWORK: Revise proposal.

March 2

DUE: “Democratic Needs.”

READING DUE: Shirky, “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone,” and “Everyone is a Media Outlet,” from Here Comes Everybody.

LECTURE: What we meant by “citizen journalism” (and why it failed)




March 7

READING DUE: McQuarrie, “Nature and Characteristics of Market Research,” from The Market Research Toolbox: A Concise Guide for Beginners; “Factors Affecting Readership of News and Advertising in a Small Daily Newspaper” (Connery)

LECTURE: Research, journalism, and understanding audiences.

HOMEWORK: From proposal to elevator pitch

March 9

DUE: “Elevator Pitch.”

READING DUE: “The Traffic Factories: Metrics at Chartbeat, Gawker Media, and The New York Times.” (Petre)

LECTURE: Research, journalism, and understanding audiences.

GUEST SPEAKER: Rodrigo Zamith, Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

March 14

READING DUE: “The Absence of Structural Americanization” (Nielsen)

LECTURE: International News

GUEST SPEAKER: Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director of Research, Reuters Institute of Journalism


== PART FOUR ==-


March 16:

READING DUE: “Journalism: What Everyone Needs to Know (The Present)” (Anderson, Downie, and Schudson)

LECTURE: The current state of the news business

March 21

READING DUE: “Journalism: What Everyone Needs to Know (The Future)” (Anderson, Downie, and Schudson)

LECUTRE: The future state of the news business

March 28

READING DUE: “Reinventing Journalism as an Entrepreneurial Enterprise.” (Singer)

LECTURE: Journalistic Innovation

March 30

READING DUE: “Word Perfect: How to Become a Freelance Writer?”; “The Rules of the Freelance Game.”

LECTURE: Freelancing


April 4

READING DUE: “Guide to Podcasting,” (Quirk)

LECTURE:Case Study: Podcasting (1)

April 6 

IN CLASS ASSIGNMENT: Podcast Program & Business Design

April 11

DUE: Operating Plan

SCREENING: Matter Demo Day Pitches (2015)



April 13 

READING DUE: Current campaign coverage, TBA

LECTURE: Covering Politics

GUEST SPEAKER: Jon Lemire, the Associated Press

April 18

DUE: Funding Request

READING DUE: “Does Facebook Drive Polarization?” (Whibey); “Does Media Fragmentation Contribute to Polarization? (Maximino)

LECTURE: The New Political Fragmentation?

April 20  

READING DUE: “The Rendell Inquirer?” (Nielsen); “Journalists as ‘hit squad’” (Rosen)

LECTURE: Back to the Future: The New Political Agendas of Media Ownership

*** May 2, 4, 9, 11 *** IN CLASS FINAL PITCHES

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  1. […] require entrepreneurial spirit. Among them is our Lab colleague C.W. Anderson at CUNY, whose course Entrepreneurial Journalism requires students to cook up new media ideas. (He’s also working on a white paper on […]

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