Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pour A Scotch, This Is Gonna Be A Long One.

Wednesday morning—last week—on the fourth floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union inside the "good" room, I poured my fourth cup of coffee, looked out the window and watched the snow fall in the parking lot across the lawn. I paused and for the first time that day enjoyed a brief moment of introspection.

Behind me, 18 of the smartest journalists, entrepreneurs and educators I know discussed the future of journalism, talked about the past and played with their iPhones. There were representatives from Gannett, the Online News Association, the American Press Institute,, National Geographic, Greenspun Media, Innocentive, the Dallas Morning News, the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of South Carolina. And of course—of Newsosaur fame—Alan Mutter.

We participated in a think tank hosted by UNR's Reynolds School of Journalism. The two-day session was produced by a team of innovators and designers from IDEO (pronounced EYE-dee-oh), and focused on brainstorming radical solutions for a variety of problems facing media, journalists (and newspapers).

To me, the chance to play in the same room with these folks was a welcome distraction. For the past six months I've been busy focusing on the day-to-day stresses of running my photography business. The state of journalism—once a weekly talking point over midweek martinis—was something I purposefully ignored. I stopped reading Romenesko, I updated my e-mail newsletter subscriptions to reflect my new found interest in small business tax advice, I even let my SPJ membership expire. But for two days I was back...and I was going to help save journalism* one temporary news tattoo at a time.

That's right. News tattoos.

Other radical ideas included a projected partnership between Starbucks and The New York Times that capitalized on a community's shared affinity for caffeine and hyper-local content. And a customized delivery model based on the amount of time a user wanted to spend consuming news each day.

Writing this, I realize there are three ideas from the IDEO brainstorming process that really stuck. The first and my favorite: encourage wild ideas; the crazier the concept the more fun it is to toss about. The second: defer judgment; this is the only way to truly encourage new ideas. And lastly, go for quantity. I'm sure one of the IDEO'ers said it, but it's important to "fail often and to fail quickly."

Our two-day innovation exodus wasn't designed to fix journalism. Nor was it representative of what IDEO "does." But for me it was a hit of creative crack. As Post-it notes flew from the pad, two-inch sharpies ran dry and some of the industries most informed squished Play-Doh in their hands, I got a much needed J-fix. And for that I am grateful...and jonesing for more.

Special thanks to RSJ Professors Larry Dailey and Donica Mensing and Dean Jerry Ceppos.

...and of course—because this IS a photo blog and you DID read all that gray—two photos from the "good" room. I shot them with my P&S between brainstorming sessions.

...and below them you'll find a very special video from Tuesday night's keynote with Rob Curley courtesy of Casey Durkin and The Nevada Sagebrush. I love what the Sun is doing online with evergreen content and UNLV sports.

Jennifer Carroll presenting for our group.

A sampling of our Post-its.

Rob Curley's inspiring presentation about the Las Vegas Sun.

*For the record, I don't actually think journalism needs saving; nor am I self-righteous enough to think I could do it. Journalism and the public's access to information is healthier than ever. It's the print-based business model that's failing. And yes, someone did suggest tattoos.