With all the great innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) programs on campus at Carolina, how do you know which ones are the right fit for you? What resources does each program provide? And how can they help you make your ideas work? Innovate Carolina is taking a tour of the many I&E programs available at UNC. This week, we caught up with Reese News Lab Director Ryan Thornburg to get the latest scoop and uncover how students are pushing boundaries in the world of media through this experimental media entrepreneurship initiative at the UNC School of Media and Journalism.
What is Reese News Lab, who does it serve and how can students get involved? Reese News Lab is a community of students and professionals working to reshape the future of journalism through computational journalism, product development, audience engagement and emerging technologies.
It serves UNC students by providing great experiential learning opportunities using techniques that are in high demand across all media fields and fundamental to the future of journalism. But that also means the Lab serves communities in which the students work and the companies that partner with us.
Reese News Lab generates new ideas and experiments with new practices that can be adapted and put into use in newsrooms across the country.
For our outside projects, we’re looking for students who enjoy collaborating on projects, have humble curiosity, are clear communicators and are interested in the intersection between design, technology and non-fiction storytelling.
What are the biggest benefits that students at UNC get by participating in Reese News Lab? There are a variety of ways that students benefit from participating in the Lab’s classes and extracurricular projects. In class – and in the projects – the learn a framework for solving creative problems and building innovative products. Every media company is searching for people who know how to develop and manage products – not just create or design content or market existing products.
But students who work on the Reese News Lab projects also learn teamwork, and they get to work side-by-side with faculty. Developing a relationship with a faculty mentor is critical to students’ success in college. Mentors help students has out their future life plans, direct students toward fields of interest and help open doors with professional contacts.
How does Reese News Lab make a positive human, economic or social impact in the world – whether at UNC or beyond? At the heart of the Reese News Lab mission is the financial sustainability and editorial independence of the kind of journalism that ignites the public conversation and fuels democracy.
I’m also proud that the Lab is helping foster the growth of women who are interested in technology and entrepreneurship.
What’s something new about Reese News Lab, and what should students expect to see from it in the future? Professor Steven King is working with a handful of students on figuring out how to tell stories using immersive media like augmented and virtual reality. And that has application not just in journalism, but in global business education, in college readiness programs and in a hospital pediatrics program. I’d encourage you to talk with him to learn more about those specifics.
What’s the role of innovation at Reese News Lab – and how can the lab help students and media pros adapt in a rapidly changing media landscape? We really try to teach our students not just how to use the hottest new tool, because I’ve been around long enough to know that today’s hot new ideas are tomorrow’s cliched fads. Students learning how to approach an opportunity in a changing media environment with a solid and specific framework for creative problem solving. We encourage students to not worry so much about learning the right answer, but to think about asking the right questions. There’s really a nice overlap between the skills needed for solid news reporting – tireless curiosity and creative problem solving – and the skills needed to thrive in a dynamic profession. Students who watch their audience closely, hew closely to evidence and communicate clearly make both great reporters as well as great media product innovators.