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What’s the big IDEA?

Dan Gregory, a teacher in the School of Technological Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University, recently made a presentation to our Reinventing the News Class about IDEA, and the role of journalism in the entrepreneurial community.

IDEA is an NU endeavor that calls to students with dreams and ideas for  entrepreneurial endeavors and gives them the various resources that they need to turn them into reality, all conveniently located on or around campus.

But Dan did not come just to plug his group, he came to make a request: he wants more journalism students like ourselves to get involved in the entrepreneurial world. Why? There are a few reasons for this, and the key word is talent, which Dan believes is the driving force of all entrepreneurial endeavors.

One of these reasons is the skill set that journalists bring to the table. This includes writing skills, investigative skills, the ability to communicate clearly, the ability to meet deadlines, etc. These are all invaluable skills when it comes to the entrepreneurship scene: he says that there is a great need for those who can not only put these ideas in motion, but can communicate these ideas with the world.

But the other skill set is less obvious: it is the ability to keep and utilize what Dan calls “disruptive technology.” This includes gadgets like iPods and smartphones that have gotten in the way of human interaction, programs like Napster which have hurt the music industry, etc. Dan states, however, that journalists are great resources for making the use of this technology, and are always finding ways to use it in the best way possible to communicate quickly, efficiently and conclusively.

There are numerous ways that this has played out in real life situations. One of these is right here on campus with two NU students: Laura Moran and Meghan Linebarger. These two journalism students have taken IDEA by storm and have effectively revolutionized the communications aspect of IDEA, simply using the skill sets they have as journalists.

Another example is a company that Gregory is starting up himself called Knick-Knack, a group that aggregates the stories of people in the 50 plus range about companies, their families, past experiences, whatever they want to talk about. They then plan on compiling books for these consumers so they can have proper documentation of their memories! Clearly this is an area where journalism can be put to use, utilizing skill sets in communication and storytelling.

The brave new world can be both an exciting and, at the same time, scary place. New “disruptive technologies” are being created every day, and combined with changes in our working environments, it can seem like a lot to take in. But Gregory is certain that if we all combine the talents that we have, us journalists with pen (or BlackBerry) in hand included, we will be able to take on the future full force.

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Categories: Local Stuff, People

Lord Paluzzi visits Northeastern!

Jennifer Lord Paluzzi that is. She is the editor of centralmassnews.com, an online news community that currently services the towns of Grafton, Millbury, Auburn, and a few more Central Massachusetts towns.

Now while Paluzzi isn’t royalty per se, she does have a majestic story, a story that involves fighting the man (and winning!).  She started out as a journalist for a community newspaper that was, like most, owned by corporations.  Then, out of nowhere, she was laid off from her job.

But instead of spending her time collecting welfare checks, she decided to use her new found time to report on her community with a website that reports local activities, free from the pressures of corporate neck-breathers.

Paluzzi really saw the need for this site, however, with the onset of a tragic event.  Kevin Vulter, a former player for the Grafton High School football team, the Indians.  He tragically passed away in an automobile accident at the age of 20.

When Kevin’s uncle, Jack Schofield tried to get the local paper to print a memorial of Kevin and his proposition to put up lights on the football field in his honor.  The paper agreed, but hesitated for months and they never saw the memorial or the proposition printed.

Finally, Jack teamed up with Jennifer and got the ball rollin’.  They posted the memorial on Jennifer’s site, put up the proposition, and now the Indians have the honor of playing under the Friday night lights.

This inspired Jennifer and Jack to finally decide to start their own venture: and independent news website, free from the grip of corporate fists.

It all started with thegraftontimes.com (now thedailygrafton.com), which chose to cover everything (and more!) that’s in the local print edition (and in a timely manner, too!).

But Jennifer didn’t stop her entrepreneurship expedition there.  She continued to host news websites for amny of the surrounding towns in central mass, which expanded to the website you see today (with The Daily Northbourough coming soon!).

What Jennifer has done, in my opinion, anyway, is really shown the public where journalism is going, and the natural shift it is going to take: independent, citizen journalism that meets the demands of the public when they want it.  She gets great advertising on her website, and she also has a great method of reasearch:

We are probably the only business that encourages their employees to spend at elast 30 minutes a day on facebook. – Jennifer Paluzzi

All I can say is keep up the good fight, Jennifer; you are puttingt the news back where it belongs: in the public’s hands.

Curiosity killed the cat, but it might save the news.

February 1, 2010 1 comment

Wednesday afternoon us students in Reinventing the News were given the opportunity to meet Stephanie Miller, the digital media director for CBS Boston Television.

In her time with us she gave a great presentation on a project that she instigated to help social media initiatives for WBZ-TV.  It’s called Declare Your Curiosity, a great program that allows viewers to submit their inquiries and, of course, curiosities, about what’s going on in their neighborhoods, towns, city, anything that they are interested in.  These ‘curiosities’ remain on the blog site  to be viewed and commented on by other users and, potentially, be made into a feature story.  Some users have even gotten TV spots:

But while it might seem that these posts might just be trivial stuff (like which actors have the best Boston accents), there are a lot of important issues being brought up, such as the Times charging for web access and the dangers of texting and driving.  Some of them actually serve to better the communities of curiosity-ers.  In one particular incident that Stephanie brought up in class, a logging truck driver declared a curiosity about drooping power lines in Saugus, one of which pulled his logging seat loose from the truck and put him in danger.  Because of this post, WBZ’s David Wade went and found numerous wires around Massachusetts that failed to be as high as they should be and sparked an awareness of the dangers of these wires.

Is this the way news is going, a community wide news-fest where everyone gets to toss in their 2 cents?  Stephanie thinks so.

She says that as a journalist you now have to make sure that you are appealing to your “brand” of journalism, and her logo appears to be the “do-it-yourself” brand, where her community of patrons are actively engaged in the news.  As she states:

“We’re creating a sense of interest in the community, showing that we care what they are concerned about…ultimately the future of this (news) landscape is going to be on developing this community.”

The thing that struck my interest is the way that the information is handled.  WBZ computer whizzes use a system called COLOSYS (I don’t remember what the acronym was) to manage all the curiosities that arrive at the doorstep, breaking posts down by town, users, even linking similar curiosities to see how many people are interested in a certain topic.

“We want to be with you, we want to be part of your life and we want to be part of your community,” said Stephanie.

WBZ has a pretty good Facebook following too, a decent Twitter following (you can actually find most of the posts on the DYC page on the facebook page as well).  But while it might seem that this type of outlet is catering solely to the plugged in youth, the majority of WBZ’s online tribe are in the 45+ range.  Stephanie actually said herself she would like to see more of the 18-35 age bracket tuning into their service, and is actively finding ways to make this happen.

WBZ Boston is currently the only news station to offer a system such as this, as of now.  But with the rise in similar services such as Current TV, I’m sure that we can look forward to a future where everyone can be their own Ron Burgandy.