Entrepreneurial Journalists Explore Options at SMU/Dallas Press Club Workshop

 

by Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Journalists are no longer seeing red, but pink. The loathing of the red ink edits from the copy desk has been replaced with the fear of a pink slip in the paycheck. A half-day workshop presented at Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) School of Journalism in co-operation with the Dallas Press Club; presented opportunities in a time of change.

Entrepreneurial Journalism and the Future of News gave insights on how journalists can chart their own course and boost their media career. The workshop gave a voice to experts in three journalism fields; working journalists, journalist entrepreneurs and social media.

Entrepreneurial Journalism and the Future of News workshop gave insights on how journalists can chart their own course and boost their media career. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Approximately sixty members of the press, journalism academia and students as well as public relation professionals crowded into SMU’s digital communications lab to learn how creative thinking combined with an entrepreneurial spirit can enhance a journalist’s career after leaving the newsroom.

“What does it take to start your own business?” asked Dr. Simon Mak, Ph.D., Associate Director for the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship at SMU. “Change creates opportunities. It is easy to start a business, but hard to start one where you can make a living.”

Luck does play an uncontrollable role for start-ups, admitted Mak, rated sixth in the world by the Financial Times EMBA Rankings for Entrepreneurship. According to Mak the big question is “When should you pursue going into Entrepreneurland”.

Mak outlined criteria for the “Window of Opportunity” that need to be met when starting a business:

  1. Are you ready? Do you have the knowledge, the skills, company and personality?
  2. Good ideas move along a time line. When an opportunity opens; is it too early, too late, or just right?
  3. Personal resources. Do you have access to capital to fund the opportunity without betting the farm?

“Change creates opportunities. It is easy to start a business, but hard to start one where you can make a living," explained Dr. Simon Mak, Ph.D., Associate Director for the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship at SMU. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

When all three windows align,” explained Mak, “you hit it and hit it hard because the windows will close, and the opportunity will be lost.”

“You can use new tools to take charge of your own career,” said Jake Batsell, assistant journalism Professor at SMU teaching digital journalism, “Whether working in a large organization, striking out on your own or using the skills in the field of public relations.  There are just so many new ways for communication professionals to chart their own path in the media industry.”

Walls between startup journalism sites and traditional media are starting to come down according to Pegasus News founder Mike Orren.

“We’ve been saying these are interesting times for ten years,” said Orren, “but now, we really, really mean it.”

Citizen journalism, crowdsourcing and other social media are bringing more accountability. The questions is now “How do we make more and better Journalism?”

“No matter what the medium, it is all about content,” Orren said. “Whatever great content you create today, you are going to have to do it all again tomorrow.”

For Carmen Cano, Digital Managing Editor at the Dallas Morning News, the beauty of the digital world is that you can actually change your mind as you go.

Mak agreed startups have the advantage of speed and flexibility and have the luxury of being able to design experiments that can tailor their site to readers. He also encouraged journalists to form partnerships.

After leaving the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram as an art writer speaker Mark Lowry co-founded and edits Theaterjones.com, an online arts and entertainment site for the DFW Metroplex.

Lowry has found ways to team with another speaker Shawn Williams the founder of Dallas South News, a nonprofit new organization, so both sites can benefit from traffic, ad revenues and at the same time create a buzz for both sites.

"You can use new tools to take charge of your own career,” said Jake Batsell, assistant journalism Professor at SMU teaching digital journalism. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Williams explained partnerships were key for his site. Dallas South News produces local news but also is a business partner to its advertisers where it receives streams of income from a variety of products.

“Creating a buzz is key for innovation,’ explained Mak. “ It is a “double-wow” factor.”

Cameron Gawley, CEO of Buzzshift Digital Strategy Agency, explained news sites are rapidly becoming curators of content.

“Content is created, contributed or curated. If you want to be a thought leader,” Gawley said, “the key is to add personal perspective to curated content posts.”’

For entrepreneurial journalists looking to start a news career, Mak explained “first movers” have a definite marketing advantage. It is important for the new business brand to have a vision, and for the entrepreneur to overcome any fear of selling.

Mak cautioned entrepreneurial first movers to make sure they know their marketplace, their competitors and their customers while always remembering one thing, “The early bird catches the worm, but the early worm is the one that gets caught.”

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