Lesson Plan: What Could You Start?

Exploring entrepreneurial journalism from the inside out: identifying your strengths and potential opportunities

Entrepreneurial Journalism students explore news startups at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism

Overview & Purpose

To learn about entrepreneurial journalism, it helps to engage in the process of ideation and project-based learning. To help kickstart the development of their ideas, students in this session start by looking at their own strengths and capabilities. They then consider the communities they know and are a part of. They take note of some concerns and issues that affect people in that community. Finally they consider who they could interview to gather more information and gain a better understanding of a community’s problems and needs and the opportunities that might exist to help address those issues.


Participants who take part in these sessions will be able to…

  1. Explain some of their own skills, areas of knowledge and strong interests.
  2. Summarize several groups of contacts they already have in their networks.
  3. Note some of the interests and frustrations that affect a particular community, and some of the individuals who they might interview to develop a better understanding of the needs of that community.
  4. Plant the seeds for the development of a new idea rooted in their own strengths as well as the needs of the communities of which they are a part.
Suggested Schedule for 150-Minute Lesson
  1. 0-15 Minutes: Consider Your Capabilities: As they enter the classroom, give students the handout depicted below, or show it on the classroom screen and have students grab a piece of paper and pen and draw the columns and labels above. Then give a version of the following opening instruction: “When we think about entrepreneurship, one angle to consider is our internal strengths and capabilities. So today, you’re going to start this session by thinking about your own personal strengths and capabilities. Regardless of your age or past professional experience, you all have far more entrepreneurial potential than you realize, simply based on what you know, what you can do, what you care about and who you know.”“Complete the handout below by thinking about your knowledge, skills, interests and network. There is no need to be humble here, and no need to fear being perceived as conceited. This sheet will be for your eyes alone, unless you choose to share it with others. This is a chance for you to surface your own strengths and capabilities, which some people rarely consider.”Click on the image below or this link to access a handout to print and distribute:

    Once the 10 or 15 minutes for the exercise has expired, transition to the debrief with the following: “Now that you’ve taken note of what you care about (passions, motivations), curiosities, what you know about (knowledge), what you can do (skills) and who you know (network).

  2. 15-35 Minutes: Considering a CommunityInstructions for students: Now we’re going to move from looking inward to looking outward. Before you can think about what the world needs, think about a particular community you know well. That may provide some clues about what one small part of the world needs. Focus on a specific group so you can serve them well. – Use the handout above, or draw your own lines on a blank piece of paper. Fill this out from left to right. Start by listing several groups you’re a part of or know well. 

    – Once you’ve done that, focus on one of those groups you’re particularly interested in serving, either because it has a pressing need, because you know it well, or because you’re in a position to make a difference for that group. 

    – Then list out what you know about the group’s motivations and passions. What do people in this group care about? When you talk with them, what do they feel excited about or what do they love to talk about? What are they passionate about? 

    – Then note some of the most pressing concerns of group members. What keeps them up at night? What do they worry about? What makes them angry or frustrated? What makes their lives more challenging day after day, month after month, year after year? 

    – Take note of what media and news outlets people already use so that you have reference points for how to reach your group members. Understanding a person’s media diet can also help you understand the context they’re living in.

  3. 35-60 Minutes: Preparing for InterviewsOne of the best ways to lay the groundwork for the development of a new entrepreneurial idea is to listen to people in a community you’re interested in serving. Learn about their needs, their interests, their daily lives. The best way to do that? Interview them. Not in the style of a journalist, hunting for a particular fact, quote or detail. But as a design thinker, interested in understanding their daily lives. Spend 10 minutes reading these two brief resources for conducting empathy interviews effectively. 

    Tactics for Interviewing for Empathy
    Ground Rules for Interviewing

    Once you’re done reading those, spend the next 15 minutes writing down the names of three people to interview and 10 questions to ask each of those people. Then email one of the people to set up a 20 or 30-minute initial interview/conversation. It’s best to interview them in person, if you can, to observe their body language and to encourage candor. If that isn’t feasible, try to use a free video meeting service like Skype so you can see the person as you talk. 

  4. 60-70 Minutes: Final debrief In this final conversation, review the methods students have used in this session to begin exploring potential areas for entrepreneurial opportunities. Rather than starting with a market analysis or a flash of insight, the approach we used in this session was to start from the inside out by first exploring our strengths as individuals. Then we thought about communities we know well and considered needs they might have. Finally, to better understand the authentic needs and opportunities that exist for serving those communities, we have to go out and talk with people. We prepared to conduct interviews and laid the groundwork for a few conversations that may help foster more understanding as we lay the groundwork for considering ideas for entrepreneurial journalism ventures. Before we focus on developing potential solutions, it helps to have a solid grounding in the context in which we’re operating.
  5. 70-80 Minutes: 3-2-1 Exit Ticket. Before students depart for the day, have students answer three brief concluding reflection questions on paper or through an online service like Socrative.
    1. What are 3 things you learned/realized?
    2. What are 2 things you’d still like to know more about?
    3. What is 1 question on your mind?
Delving Deeper: Where Do Ideas Come From? A Concept to Explore if Time Permits
  1. How do entrepreneurs develop their ideas? There are many ways, but below are five ways to begin. Note that the approaches aren’t mutually exclusive. An entrepreneur may start with a particular community in mind and a question and then realize that a new technology might work well in creating a news product. Here are five common starting points.

    1. CAPABILITY Sometimes an entrepreneur starts off by focusing on a strength she or he has. For example, s/he may know multiple languages or have a background in law or engineering, and may then consider where best to apply that strength.
    2. COMMUNITY Some entrepreneurs who are part of a community or know one well may start by thinking about that community’s needs. That may lead them to consider a new way to serve that community with a product or service.
    3. PROBLEM In other cases, entrepreneurs may start with a problem that afflicts them or others they know and consider what might help address that problem. 
    4. QUESTION Some entrepreneurs may have a question they want to answer that provides a launching point: “Why isn’t there a podcast or newsletter about X topic?” 
    5. SOLUTION With new technological tools emerging every year, sometimes entrepreneurs grab hold of something new and say “Wow! I wonder if we can use this tech to provide news or information more effectively or efficiently for community X or to address this topic?” 
Discussion Questions
  1. What are some of the most innovative products you used so far today, and how would you figure out their origin story? 
  2. What challenges do potential news entrepreneurs face in coming up with new ideas these days?
  3. Is this a good time to be a media entrepreneur? In what ways might our current business, technology, media and social context be helpful for news entrepreneurs interested in developing something new? 
  4. What’s a good idea you had recently, and what was the process by which you arrived at that idea?  
Supplementary Links and Handouts
  1. Tactics for Interviewing for Empathy from IDEO and Stanford d-School 
  2. Ground Rules for Interviewing from Strategyzer
  3. bit.ly/ejlinks curated by Jeremy Caplan = Overview of entrep journalism resources
  4. bit.ly/ejoverview curated by JC w/ relevant links, stats and resources 
  5. bit.ly/ejresources curated by JC