Module JG200

Innovation Journalism

Module author

Curt Chandler

Penn State University

Learning objectives After studying this module, you will be able to:
  • Define innovation journalism and explain what is innovative about it;
  • Explain how innovation journalism works;
  • Give an overview of the historic development of the genre, including key persons who established this genre;
  • Reflect this genre critically.
Study point 1
Reading extract Innovation Journalism


Why Open School of Journalism believes that Innovation Journalism is important zu know

In different forms and through various media, journalism has been around us since time immemorial. As with any other field, the paradigms defining journalistic approaches have to be revisited and revised to fit the present day demand for information. The introduction of Innovation Journalism as an area of study can also be attributed to the inevitable need for incorporating modern societal norms into journalism. Still in its infancy, the concept of Innovation Journalism is one that has gained a particular level of interest among the experts and students of journalism alike. 

What is innovation journalism?

In the most basic sense of the word, Innovation Journalism embodies novel ideas and methods of providing improved journalistic insights to the audiences. Taking today's dependence on digital and social media under consideration, Innovation Journalism invariably makes use of technology to disseminate relevant and impactful messages. What sets Innovation Journalism apart from other beats is that it deals with futuristic trends, both in terms of the actual content and in the manner in which it is presented.

In essence, innovation journalism:

  • Can encompass all the other beats, and can narrate them in a new and inspiring way;
  • Captures stories that arouse interest and curiosity among the readers;
  • Is considered an offbeat form of journalism.

How innovation journalism differs from traditional journalism

The main idea behind Innovation Journalism remains same as journalism itself – bringing readers closer to developing stories as they happen, in the most effective way possible. 
In its truest form, ‘everyday' journalism is linear in nature, with no room for adding off-the-track details. Most of what is considered to be within the parameters of traditional journalism ethos is a hard-hitting, straightforward and objective account of events. These happenings can be classified as technological, political, social, economic or sports-related. The fundamental rule is to focus on the prescribed format and fit the narrative accordingly. This means that the content presented will stick to one main topic and will be categorized as such wherever it is published.

Innovation Journalism, on the other hand, can be considered a softer, more relatable and interactive form of journalism. The principal factor in Innovation Journalism is that it does not have to be limited to a certain beat at one time. Instead, within one article, a piece of Innovation Journalism can tackle a number of beats at the same time, without having to put a news-like, formal tone to it.

Consider news items published during the Edward Snowden saga, for instance. With a number of important dimensions to the story, the coverage could very well be classified under political, technological and international news simultaneously. 

The origin of innovation journalism

The term innovation journalism was first coined in 2003 by David Nordfors, the president of the International Institute of Innovation Journalism (IIIJ). Since then, this genre of journalism has been the recipient of much attention and study. The World Economic Forum counted innovation journalism among the seven perspectives that play a vital role in defining media's contribution in the post-globalization era. In 2009, this modern media category was recognized by the Sage Encyclopedia of Journalism as a legitimate form of mass communication.

In recent years, researchers have shown a particular interest in innovation journalism, especially when it comes to expounding on the principles that govern it. A 2005 article by Birgitta Forsberg, for example, discusses how innovation journalism content should be researched and presented. The Finnish Society for Innovation Journalism has been especially active in its efforts to promote Innovation Journalism, offering rewards for worthy contributions in the field.

The need for innovation journalism

The need for Innovation Journalism as a discipline was felt in order to educate individuals how they can use the mass media to highlight innovative initiatives. The mass media is a vehicle for channelizing and transferring novel notions. This implies that employing the media to its full potential is required to underscore innovations at every level. 

With media being the fourth pillar of society, it has a major role to play in mobilizing the society and gear it towards change. To accelerate this process and produce successful results, it is essential to produce trained professionals, who can draw attention towards innovation in order to encourage social development. The media can be particularly useful in bringing forth the advantages and disadvantages of various innovative endeavors. After providing all sides to the story, it can then leave it to the audience's discretion to pick and choose the side with which they wish to align.

Another important role of Innovation Journalism is to create an ‘innovation ecosystem'. This essentially points to its capability of engaging stakeholders in order to encourage greater interest from them towards this form of media and channel their funding towards it. While traditional journalism has been capitalizing on the investors' confidence for years due to its beat-specific approach, Innovation Journalism is still miles behind in terms of ensuring financial gains.
In this scenario, the biggest strength of Innovation Journalism becomes its greatest weakness, as marketers are reluctant to invest in a journalistic approach that does not target particular beats. What worries them is whether their marketed products will have any relevance to the presented content. 

This is where the role of mass media comes to light. When equipped with the expertise of knowledgeable individuals, media can enhance its ability to provide greater awareness and comprehension of what Innovation Journalism brings to the table.

Innovation journalism from the point of view of journalists

Today's world is ruled by new technology and media, whereby people need information transmission available to them on-the-go. For this reason, media houses, journalists and students of journalism have to make a concerted effort to redefine their style of presenting information. Moving away from wordy newspaper articles and sixty minutes of prime-time news hour, people now look for succinct yet comprehensive messages that deliver the same knowledge in the shortest possible manner. 

Take for example the use of Twitter. Messages comprising a mere 140 characters have a massive reach and following. This is the kind of efficacy that needs to be adopted in the mass communication being done in today's times and Innovation Journalism is the key to it.