– Knight-Batten Award 2011

JeffersonNet content management system

This proposal was submitted to the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism on June 5, 2011.

Submitter Name: Jim Stovall

Submitter Title: professor of journalism

Organization: University of Tennessee

Street Address: 333 Communications Building

1345 Circle Park Drive

City / State / ZIP: Knoxville / Tennessee / 37996

Phone Number: 865.974.5109

Fax Number:

Please provide a brief summary of your project:
The JeffersonNet content management system is a CMS allowing the Intercollegiate Online News Network (ICONN) to start and support campus and scholastic news websites across the nation. Begun in October 2010, the J-Net system now supports 14 campus and 26 high school news websites.

1) Describe your project and tell us what makes it innovative.

ICONN’s J-Net system allows campuses, courses, programs, teachers and high schools to start news websites for their students at no cost. It offers these sites
—easy, non-technical start-up
—free content management system
—free hosting
—an opportunity for students to learn and practice skills in online journalism
—automatic participation in the ICONN and ISONN (Interscholastic Online News Network) NewsStream. The NewsStream gathers and enhances content from the member sites and then streams it out to all of the sites within the network. The immediate benefits are two-fold: fresh, relevant content for all of the sites; and the opportunity for a student’s work to appear on sites throughout the network.
—automatic participation in the ICONN advertising network, which is currently under development. The advertising network will serve national and local advertising to individual websites and opens the possibility for a site to become self-supporting and even profitable.
—local orientation of content but with national support
—the benefits of sharing. Sites share not only content but also ideas, technology and assistance.

2) Tell us your best URLs to look at:One per line, up to eight. For websites requiring registration, you must provide our judges with a username and password.

These first two sites are the sites for the Intercollegiate Online News Network (ICONN) and the Interscholastic Online News Network (ISONN):



Here are the two NewsStream sites for ICONN and ISONN:



The following two sites are collegiate sites supported by ICONN’s J-Net system:



The following two sites are high school sites supported by ICONN’s J-Net system:



3) How does your entry involve new forms of information sharing or new storytelling models? Does it offer new participation opportunities or involve new uses of technologies?

The JeffersonNet CMS allows campus news website to share information, news articles, photos, audio and video in a news service-like fashion. J-Net also supports a news service for high school news websites. As far as we are aware, these are the only news services for collegiate and scholastic news websites.

4) Does your entry develop new processes for doing journalism or employ new definitions of news? Tell us how.

One of the things we are beginning to test using the ICONN and ISONN NewsStream is a news story form we call the “nutshell.” The nutshell (as opposed to the inverted pyramid structure) requires a headline, summary, lead paragraph, and three or four bullet points of information. We think this structure is particularly appropriate for mobile journalism, where news consumers want lots of information very quickly. We will be working on the J-Net system to make it technologically more adaptable to this form of reporting and writing.

Another idea we will try out is that of modal windows. These are a simple Javascript device that allow journalists to embed information—pictures, maps, graphics, video—into the text of a story and then prompt the reader to open the window if the he or she is interested in more information at that point in the article.

All of this helps the journalist break away from the standard inverted pyramid news story structure. It means that reporters and news writers must think in terms of “information architecture” rather than the standard structures that have governed traditional media

5) Explain how your entry advanced digital engagement. For instance, were new information ideas or technologies used to spur nontraditional interactions with audiences? Did they educate people in new ways? Include qualitative feedback and quantitative measures.

The original purpose of ICONN was to improve journalism education—to help journalism classes and programs at both the scholastic and collegiate level focus on online media and its possibilities. That remains central to the mission of the organization. The J-Net has enabled us to expand the reach of our activities by allowing us to build news websites for student work where there were none before.

A second step in the process was to build an organizational culture that was inclusive and non-prescriptive. We seek to include news websites that already exist outside the J-Net system—such as those of current student media. We try to remain open to all ideas while also upholding high standards of journalistic practice.

6) Explain the project’s impact on the topic or on your community. Did it pioneer new ideas for covering community issues and engaging citizens?

We believe that the way to fundamentally change journalism education is to give classes, course, programs and campus the central tool of online journalism—the news website. Without this tool, little will change about what we teach and the way we teach. Students must be able to practice and experiment. Because online journalism is constantly changing, there is no accepted body of knowledge and no accepted set of prescriptions about what it ought to be or how it ought to look. We believe that by actively participating in this dynamic environment, we can grow, learn, adapt and influence.

A secondary benefit of this project, particularly of the J-Net system, is the creation of hyperlocal sites at the campuses and high schools involved.

7) Identify any innovative uses of newsroom, community, technological or other resources used to support the project.

In addition to the innovations mentioned in previous answers, we should not that the J-Net system begins with a standard WordPress multi-user installation. This software is free and open-sourced. One of the advantages to WordPress is that its wide user base ensures that many of the problems and challenges we encountered in setting up the network have solutions that are available through the WordPress community. Part of our job has been to put together the themes, plug-ins, widgets and other components necessary for making a good news website so that others would not have to do this. We have tried to lower the technological barriers to starting a news website as much as possible. Judging from the growing number of sites on our system, we have succeeded.

8) What parts of your effort are you particularly proud of? Tell us why and SPECIFICALLY where to find them online or in your entry.

The Intercollegiate Online News Network and its spinoffs are the work of a great many people dating back to 2006 when we were creating a news website for the School of Journalism at UT. Students, faculty from UT and many other places, and professionals took up the idea of changing journalism education and volunteered many hours of time and effort to get us where we are today. I would point specifically to the ICONN board of directors, http://intercollegiatenews.com/about-2/iconn-board-of-directors/, but they are simply representative of so many more people.

9) List other participants to be recognized.

Mark Johnson, University of Georgia
Steve Klein, George Mason University
Stacy Baird, San Francisco State University
Johnny Dobbins, National Geographic
Jefferson Stovall, ESI, Washington, D.C.
Joseph Agreda, University of Tennessee
Alan Hall, PR professional, Nashville
Dean Littleton, WVLT-TV, Knoxville
Peter Gross, Lisa Gary, Allyson DeVito, Darrell Blair, Matthew Broaddus, University of Tennessee

10) Additional information you’d like the judges to know:

The JeffersonNet content management system was launched in October 2010 with two collegiate and six scholastic sites. It now supports 14 campus and 26 scholastic news web sites—sites that did not exist prior to the development of the system.

In addition, 20 more collegiate sites and three scholastic sites are members of the Intercollegiate Online News Network and the Interscholastic Online News Network.

The rapid growth of these networks indicates that we have touched a strong desire among journalism educators and student to shift to an online orientation.