McGuire on Media

Business and Future of Journalism syllabus

An industry acquaintance who has moved into academia wrote the other day inquiring about ideas for a media management class he’s going to teach. He wants to put a different spin on the class.

I shared my Business and Future of Journalism syllabus with him, and I decided to share it with you.

I emphasized that what I am doing is very far from a media management class.

Under our new curriculum here at ASU the class will be required and is suggested for senior year.  Our idea is that as students enter the workplace they should understand the tensions between business and journalism now and in the future. As you read the syllabus you will see that the class culminates with a paper describing the student’s view of the media future. 

If I succeed students will use their critical thinking abilities to explore the future they can create. Click more to see the syllabus.

The Business and Future of Journalism

Arizona State University

Spring Semester 2008

JMC 494-1006


Tim McGuire: Frank Russell Chair for the Business of Journalism

Required texts and reading and recommended activities:

Read all assigned online material. All class material can be found online. You will also be required to read a few handouts I will distribute

As assigned by lot on the first day of class, a third of the class will read The World is Flat by Tom Friedman, a third will read The Search by John Battelle and the other third will read The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. Students will be assigned to report on their book and attempt to educate fellow students on the contents. Graduate students and footnote 18 students will read all three books and do all three assigned reports.

Further required reading: Read Jim Romenesko’s daily briefing at

Read McGuire on Media Daily

Course Description:

Every media person you meet will tell you the journalism world you stand to enter has changed profoundly. Much of the blame for that alleged change is laid at the doorstep of “the business side of journalism” and that phrase usually involves a snarl and some spit. And yet any journalist worth any salt at all knows that it is essential that a successful business support quality journalism. Since the days presses were hauled around on the back of horse-drawn wagons a debate has raged over the proper balance between journalistic quality and business prerogatives. This class will study business models of media and study the tension between the pursuit of quality journalism and making a profit in the media business.

The course will attempt to understand the history of those tensions, the current state of said tensions and most importantly how those tensions might shape the future of the media which is being decided as we speak. Arguably, the rate of change in the media business has never been more rapid, and there may be no better time to examine the tension between journalism and business than at the threshold of a brave new media world. We will try to understand where the media is headed amid this mind-boggling change.

We will study the battle for the journalistic soul, business models and how they work across media, audiences and markets, advertising and revenue, the corporatization of media, and the tensions around news investment versus the decline in advertising. Then, using that material as our base, we will explore the future using the three books. After adding the material from those three books to our base of knowledge we will look at innovation and disruption, media’s efforts to change, and the impact social computing, crowd sourcing, reputation engines and the wisdom of crowds are having on the media. We will finally focus on the invention of the media future and we will conclude by relating all of this to the journalist of the future—you. The class will culminate in presentation of your papers on your vision of the media future.

If we succeed we will look at all these issues and their implications through five lenses: consumer readers, public interest, owners, news leadership and employees.

The goals of this class are to expose advanced journalism students to broad media management problems, to understand how essential the bottom-line and quality journalism are to the entire journalistic enterprise and to help students think about how to balance those two concerns as journalists face an uncertain future.

Special note: This syllabus WILL change. It is imperative that before every reading assignment you check on Blackboard to get the updated reading list. I will be subtracting some things and adding web citations.

Course Requirements:

1) Participation: This is going to be a fluid class emphasizing discovery and recognition. Each student must read the assigned material and watch the media closely to apply the things we learn in class and participate in class discussion to enrich that discovery process. Spot quizzes will attempt to insure you are reading.

2) Critical thinking is necessary to make the discovery process work. There will be precious few absolutes. Most of the course will concentrate on sorting out the gray areas on many issues. That requires good critical thinking. Analysis, synthesis and evaluation will be required in all written assignments, quizzes and tests.

3) All written assignments must be delivered on time and they should be typed in 12 point Times New Roman. Papers should be single-spaced with double space between paragraphs. Failure to get papers delivered at the beginning of class the day they are due will result in a penalty of one grade. For each 12 hours the paper is late another full grade will be deducted. After 24 hours, don’t bother and take your zero.

4) Through the semester three journals will be due. The journals should include at least three or four entries a week. You are asked to reflect on class material and the real world and make connections. The journals will be judged on the following; 1)writing quality, 2) your level of engagement in the class, 3) quality of reflection and analysis, 4) contemporaneous use of real-world facts, cases and events, 5) Creative thinking about where media is heading. The journals will be due Feb 14, March 26 and April 21. These are important parts of the learning experience and your grade. It would be a mistake to take them lightly.

5) A book analysis will be due on the Tuesday of the week your book is to be discussed. We will draw for book responsibilities on the first day of class. You are going to have the responsibility of explaining your book to the rest of the class. The analysis will include the following components: Three pages dedicated to capturing the essence of the book for someone who hasn’t read it; twenty “eureka” moments the book induced, i.e. 20 short graphs of things that made you say “wow;” the final written component will be short paragraphs on each of five to 10 ideas in the book you think have implications for news media; finally part of your grade will be based on your class presentation of that material on the Tuesday your book is discussed. Again I will judge these on writing quality, the effectiveness and insight of your observations and the overall effectiveness of communicating with class peers about the key elements of the book. They will not have read the book and your presentations will lubricate the rest of the class discussion. On Thursday of each book week I will present my take on the book and we’ll discuss the implications for the future of journalism and news media.

6) A final paper will be due on Tuesday, April 28. It will be a 12-15 page memo addressed to an editor or news director. The memo will use the PowerPoint material from the class to state the challenge your newspaper or TV station is facing, and set forth a defensible vision for the future of the organization. You are urged to: examine actual developing cases in the media; use as many of the principles and insights gathered during the class; and to leverage your knowledge of the work media companies are doing to face the future to construct a media strategy for your company.

7) That final paper will be judged by five criteria. A.) Originality, thoroughness and creativity. B.)Concise, active, interesting and ACCURATE writing. You are advanced journalism students. It should show. Copy errors, gross grammar errors and fact errors will cost you points. C.) Issue spotting, that is successfully using the business of journalism issues we have discussed. A premium will be placed on the number of issues you cite and use in your presentation. D.) Quality of
analysis, synthesis and evaluation E.) The quality of your business vision for media. Some of you are going to find this vague. Let me say that some of the vagueness is intentional. I believe the true test of your command of this sort of material is your ability to deal with abstraction and fuzziness. That said, throughout the class I will attempt to clarify whenever I can, but I want you to be bold, risk-taking and forward thinking in this final assignment. Bending my expectations will be rewarded. I want to be able to say, “wow, I didn’t think about it that way.” I also want to be able to show key parts of your paper to others through my blog as examples of how young people can effectively think and write about our future.

Additional Norms:

Expect passion from me and I will expect it from you.

Expect joy and enjoyment from me and I will expect it from you.

Expect respect from me and I will expect it from you

Attend class.

Pay attention and stay awake

Respect the person speaking during class participation.

Listen attentively and don’t concentrate on what you’re going to say next. Hear first.

Stay up to date with the media.

Read all assignments.

Carefully prepare to discuss and debate.

Pay special attention to the PowerPoint material. Everything on a PowerPoint slide represents material that should be considered for your journals and your final papers. If you have a command of the PowerPoint material, and if you can successfully analyze, synthesize and evaluate, you will succeed.

Act ethically. Plagiarism, fabrication, reusing material you’ve used in another class, cheating or any other act of deception will result in automatic failure of this class and will be reported to the Dean of the Cronkite School.

The Academic Integrity policy of the school is being distributed under separate cover.

Act professionally All of my judgments on behavior, grading, explanations etc will be based on the workplace. If I would show compassion in the newsroom you will find compassion here. If I would be skeptical in the newsroom, I will be skeptical here. If I would find a behavior or explanation to be horse hockey in the newsroom, I will deem it horse hockey here.


1. You are paying good money to learn. I will take attendance every class. Attendance is expected, but I understand emergencies happen so an occasional absence will not be a problem. However, chronic absences will not be tolerated. Five absences will result in a 10 point penalty.

2. Participation and eloquence—Personal experience tells me that much of your success in the workplace will depend on your ability to articulate your ideas with assertiveness, imagination and impact. I expect the same in class discussion and I will not be sanguine about the “quiet” ones. You must express yourself well in my class and in the world. Thus, I will use my kind, but subjective judgment to award all or part of 5 extra credit points for effective and active class participation.

3. 6 random quizzes on daily readings which may be given at any time during class. There will be no excuses for missing a quiz, but I will only count five so you have some space. This is obviously another way I encourage attendance. If you have read that day’s assigned material these quizzes will be quite easy.–10 points

4. Journals—30 points

5. Book analysis and class presentation– 25 points

6. Final paper—Statement of challenge, vision and media future –35 points

A= 90-100%, B= 80-89%, C= 70-79%. D =60-69% E=less than 60%

Week one: Jan. 15-17 The Journalism thing

Day 1: Introduction of class, instructor and students

Day 2. The “soul” of journalism and the battle for that soul

Week 2 Jan 22-24 Business models. How they work across media

Day 1 What the media looks like today

Day 2. Tim’s walkthrough of the business models

Discussion of Media 1.0 and Mutter’s cheat sheet.

Business models one legged stool

Week Three: Jan 29-31 Economic realities and advertising

Day 1 —Exploring current economic realities of each media

Day 2 : Examining ownership

Week Four: Feb 5-7: Audience gathering

Day 1: State of audiences

Day 2: Efforts to increase audiences or at least to stanch the decline and the tensions therein.

Week Five: Feb 13-15: News investment and how business realities impinge on the mission

Day 1:Advertising as the main source of revenue for most media.

Day 2: The tensions

Week Six: Feb. 19-21: World is Flat

Day 1— designated class members make presentations on Friedman’s book

Day 2– Tim discusses his view of the book and class makes connections to News media and journalism

Week Seven: Feb 26-28: The Search

Day 1— designated class members make presentations on Battelle’s book

Day 2– Tim discusses his view of the book and class makes connections to news media and journalism

Week Eight: March 4-5: The Long Tail

Day 1—designated class members make presentations on Anderson’s book.

Day 2– Tim discusses his view of the book and class makes connections to news media and journalism

Spring Break: March 11 and 13

Week Nine: March 18-20 Summary, review and figuring out our path forward

Day 1—Review and reflection

Day 2— Setting basis for the future

Revisit Mutter Cheat sheet

Read Booz-Allen report on Blackboard Read Paul Saffo piece pages 7-9.

Week 10: March 25-27: Disruption and Innovation

Day 1: EPIC 2015

Watch and analyze Epic 2015. Please preview at

Be prepared to discuss, critique and predict

Read Tim’s handout from Harvard Business review on Innovation “Meeting the challenge of Disruptive Change”

pages 38-41

Day 2: Innovation and change: creating action out of panic

Tim’s handout of Atlantic article on Multitasking


Also read the section of the McGuire speech he refers to

Week 11: April 1-3

Day 1: Understanding the new culture

Read the Introduction and the first four chapters.

pages 13-16 Rayport pages 21-24, Fulton

pages 41-44 Redinger

pages 55-58

Day 2:The new phenomena

Tim’s handout of Forrester report on Social Computing pages 211-234,72067-0.html

Tim handout on gaming

Week 12: April 8-10: Imagining the newspaper future

Day 1: Is it dead and can it come back to life?

pages 33-36 Mohr

pages 10-13 Ginocchio

pages 27-31 Schaffer

pages 31-33 Rosen

pages 50-52, Gray

pages 60-64 ,Chisholm

pages 64-67, Wilkinson

Day 2: Other media

Week 13: April 15-17 The Power to the People

Day 1: Guest speaker Dan Gilmor on The business of citizen Journalism

Day 2—Guest speaker Jim Diaz on targeted media

Week 14: April 22-24: New Models

Day 1: The role of the individual journalist in the future

Take a look at

Day 2: A hands-on look

Take a look at MinnPost, Crosscut, Voice of San Diego and New Haven’s Independent. All are linked from this story

Week 15: April 29: Student discovery

Presentation, debate, discussion of class vision of the future.

Final papers are due.