Future of the fourth estate in "good" journalism

Digital News Innovation Challenge looking to grow independent journalism in Canada

Digital News Innovation Challenge

Ryerson University recently sponsored a Mount Royal student to attend its digital news innovation conference examining the challenges facing journalism in Canada. The conference was the kick-off for the Digital News Innovation Challenge (DNIC), a program supporting aspiring entrepreneurs in the fields of Canadian digital news and journalism. The DNIC is looking to help grow the next big Canadian indie news site to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Canadaland, the National Observer, Rabble and Discourse Media.

Applications are open until March 9. Selected teams will have access to a dedicated workspace for five months at Ryerson, coaching by leading industry experts and mentors plus up to $100,000 in seed money.

Paul McAleer, a fourth-year Bachelor of Communication ― Journalism student was MRU's representative.

"Anyone (students) can enter," McAleer says. "They're focused on strength of ideas."

McAleer left Toronto with the knowledge solidified that the future of journalism is in "good" journalism ― well-researched, high-quality reporting with multiple perspectives in each story, as opposed to rapidly churning out low-quality content designed as "click bait" to catch a reader's attention on social media channels.

"I think journalists need to find a niche and build an audience around that," McAleer says.

"The big thing is to understand how to connect in a meaningful way with local audiences," says Sally Haney, MRU journalism professor and the managing editor of the Calgary Journal. "That connection used to be a very one-way affair. We used to produce content, and often the only bit of feedback we might have heard from an audience was through letters to the editor.

"I think the most promising area is about re-examining the relationship with the audience, and searching for the story with the help of your community."

McAleer has his own idea for the DNIC that looks at streamlining how mobile apps are delivering news to local audiences. He says the conference was a breath of fresh air in a time when predictions about the journalism industry tend to be on the gloomy side.

"A couple of years ago a lot of people were pretty negative about the future of journalism, but every panel speaker at the conference was very optimistic," McAleer says. "They pinpointed the idea that the future will hinge on the students and the people coming out of journalism school. It got my spirits up."

Professor Asmaa Malik, graduate program director at the Ryerson School of Journalism and the faculty lead on the DNIC, says the challenge is a response to the disruption that's taking place in the news industry in Canada, and focuses on boosting early-stage ideas to launch products and services for diverse audiences on multiple platforms. The Facebook Journalism Project is also providing up to $50,000 in Facebook advertising for the participants.


A post shared by Sandbox (@sandboxdmz) on Nov 28, 2017 at 12:49pm PST


"We're looking for students who are trying to solve a pressing problem in journalism, whether it's through new technology, an innovative approach to distribution or finding new audiences," Malik says.

"We'd strongly like to encourage students to put their heads together and work in teams."

Check out the latest from Mount Royal journalism students in the Calgary Journal.


Feb. 12, 2018 — Silvia Pikal

Media request contact information.
Have a story idea? Please fill out this form.