– International Press Institute

This proposal was submitted to the International Press Institute on May 31, 2011.

Program type: New Platforms

Project title: Intercollegiate Online News Network

The project presented here is to internationalize the Intercollegiate Online News Network (ICONN) to make it a force for free expression throughout the work.

ICONN is an association of academic programs, campus news websites, individuals and other organizations interested in the development of online journalism education and practice. ICONN maintains an active and ongoing interest in expanding the concepts of free expression and the free exchange of information and ideas. ICONN is committed to the highest ideals and practices of journalism in pursuing and disseminating accurate information.

ICONN has been in existence since 2008 and works in conjunction with the School of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, which provides administrative and logistical support. ICONN currently includes more than 30 collegiate news websites in the United States. (These members include the University of Georgia, George Mason University, Southern Methodist University, San Francisco State University, and many others.)

The project proposed here is to expand ICONN into an international organization that will make it a force for free expression and the highest ideas of journalism.

ICONN plans to go about this expansion in four ways:

  • ICONN International Conference on Collegiate Journalists
  • Establishing and supporting news websites on European college campuses in 2011-2012 (with plans for expansion to other continents in subsequent years)
  • International Voice of Freedom Awards for Collegiate Online Journalism
  • Strengthening the ICONN technical network to support ICONN’s international presence
  • Developing an online workshop that would aid in establishing collegiate news websites around the world.

The amount requested for this entire proposal is EU 243,461.4 ($350,000).

Innovations in the proposal

This proposal contains a variety of innovations that are not set forth by any other organization or project. ICONN is the only organization at the collegiate or scholastic level that is solely devoted to advancing the cause of web journalism education and campus web journalism. As such, our focus is completely digital; we are not carrying the baggage of the traditional media.

One of the ways in which ICONN achieves its goal of advancing web journalism is providing the technology and support for those who want to initiate news website on their campuses. We have developed the JeffersonNet content management system (a WordPress-based CMS) that we are able to duplicate for any program, organization or faculty member who wants to begin a news site for their students. In addition, we provide server space for these sites.  Both the CMS and server space is free, as is membership in ICONN itself. We do not charge for any service that we provide. We simply ask that all member sites be willing to share their originally produced content with other members of the network. (See the separate document on the JeffersonNet content management system.)

The ICONN NewsStream is another innovative aspect of this proposal. The NewsStream stems from the idea that each member site agrees to share its content with other member sites. The NewsStream gathers content from each of the sites and selects that which is of more than local interest. NewsStream editors enhance this content by a variety of means (rewriting headlines, editing copy, adding highlights, including links, etc.) and sending it out or making it available to all members of the network. The NewsStream has a double benefit for the ICONN members: it provides fresh content for member sites; and it offers the opportunity for student journalists to have their work appear on more than their local websites. (See the separate document on the ICONN NewsStream.)

Another innovative part of this proposal is the awards program. At the moment, we know of no international awards program that recognizes the best work of online student journalists. We also plan special recognition of the work of student journalists that contributes to the ideals of free expression and free and open exchange of information. (We would welcome the International Press Institute as a named and active partner in creating, selecting and presenting these awards.)

The Going Online workshop is a one-day workshop that helps teachers switch their teaching from traditional media to online concepts. We have offered that workshop five times since the spring of 2010 at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  We are developing an online version of the Going Online workshop and will be offering it for the first time in June and again in July this summer. Despite the widespread recognition in the discipline of journalism that we should be putting more emphasis on digital media in our teaching, there is relatively little in the way of practical, professional development opportunities to help teachers make this switch. The Going Online workshop helps teachers change what they are doing in the classroom by beginning with the establishment of an online news website for their students. Teachers learn how to operate and administer their own website. By doing so, they begin to understand some of the concepts of online journalism and how that journalism differs from traditional media. Part of our proposal asks for funds to continue to develop this workshop so that it may be offered to journalism instructors in many countries.

International Conference on Collegiate Online Journalism

This conference is a two-day gathering tentatively planned for May 2012 at the University of Salzburg in Salzburg, Austria. The conference is for both journalism faculty and students.

Part of the conference will emphasize training students and faculty in the latest online journalism concepts and techniques. The aim of this part of the conference is to establish ICONN news websites for the universities that are represented and to train students and faculty on how to administer those sites. We also plan to present and discuss the idea of the ICONN NewsStream and explore ways that European collegiate journalists can contribute to it.

A second part of the conference is planned as a forum for research presentations by faculty interested in online journalism.

The University of Salzburg has a partnership with the University of Tennessee School of Journalism and Electronic Media that facilitates the planning of this conference. Salzburg is centrally located so that students from universities in Eastern and Western Europe can easily attend.

International Voice of Freedom Awards for Collegiate Journalists

These awards will recognize the best in collegiate online journalism on an annual basis: the best campus news website; the best in news reporting and writing; the best online photography, audio and video.

A set of awards will also go to those collegiate journalists that have advanced the cause of freedom of expression and the free exchange of information and ideas.

The awards will carry a monetary prize in addition to plaques and certificates. They will be presented at the annual ICONN conference in the spring of 2013.

The Board of Directors of ICONN will set the general parameters of these awards. We would welcome the active participation of the International Press Institute in the development of these awards.

Budget

The following is a general budget proposal for this project. Below each item is a list of the ways these funds would be used. We can provide a more detailed accounting for these items upon request:

  • ICONN International Conference on Collegiate Online Journalism
    EU 69,560.4 ($100,000)
    (Travel, conference publicity, facilities, housing, meals, follow-up activities)
  • Establishing and supporting news websites on European college campuses in 2011-2012 (with plans for expansion to other continents in subsequent years)
    EU 34780.2 ($50,000)
    (Publicity, advertising, start-up incentives, equipment, training material)
  • International Voice of Freedom Awards for Collegiate Journalists
    EU 34780.2 ($50,000)
    (ICONN committee meetings to establish awards parameters; publicity, judging, monetary awards, plaques and certificates, travel and presentation)
  • Strengthening the ICONN technical network to support ICONN’s international presence
    EU 69,560.4 ($100,00)
    (Technical development of JeffersonNet content management system; buying and testing of themes, plug-ins; social networking enhancements; community involvement tools; development of audio and video players; server space for websites; training; maintenance for websites within the network)
  • Developing an online workshop that would aid in establishing collegiate news websites around the world.
    EU 34780.2 ($50,000)
    (Audio and video presentations; publicity; developing education materials such as hand-outs, assignments, lesson plans; online presentation software)