Frank Mungeam is taking years of experience in local newsrooms to help develop ‘newsroom innovation’ that can be used across local broadcasting. Mungeam is the Head of Innovation Labs at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, at Arizona State University.
“Everyone I know recognizes the need for innovation and transformation in local news...but folks aren’t really sure what to do,” said Mungeam. “What we have here with our student journalism at the professional school is the ability to do news experiments. We are non-commercial and it is a learning environment. So as long as we are learning and we are not violating the core elements of journalism, we can fail in ways that are instructive not just for our students, but we hope we can have both smart failures, but even better, smart successes that can be scaled and used by newsrooms across the country. I’m in the business of open-source innovation.”
We sat down with Frank to learn about how he and his students are driving innovation and interactive storytelling, that is inspiring the entire news media industry.
On creating meaningful engagement:
I’ve been very interested in how to move beyond trivial engagement. Letting the audience vote at the end of the newcast. Saying, hey do you want to vote for the cute puppies or the water skiing squirrel? I mean that’s audience engagement, but it’s not meaningful engagement. The lead up to this was how might we, one of my favorite ways to frame any innovative question, how might we, meaningfully involve and engage the audience at every stage of the editorial process? And have a live broadcast news experience that the audience authentically drove the editorial process.
On creating a ‘stop list’:
It was dishonest really, that we add new things without having an equally creative, structured conversation about what will we stop. What are the lowest ROI things we do? What are things we do that take too much time? Might we do them in less time and in some cases, literally stop doing them in order to start with capacity. You don’t do the brainstorming of ten new things until you’ve actually made some space.
On the future of journalism:
It is precipatory. News is a conversation. Not something decided by a few and imposed on the many. I think diversity is not just a moral imperative but frankly a strategic business advantage. We should reflect the communities that we serve, if we hope to be relevant to them. Lastly, we really, those of us who have been in the business for some time, have to evolve our storytelling and put the audience at the center and serve them with the news where, and when they want it.
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