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Arizona State University is launching an innovation lab to develop multimedia products for news companies such as Gannett and hired a national leader in online news to direct the multi-disciplinary project.
ASU President Michael Crow said the New Media Innovation Lab opened on the Tempe campus this semester with a group of 16 students majoring in journalism, computer engineering, graphic design and business. The lab is operated by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
“News is one of the areas being most transformed by the rapid advances in technology - first, Web-based news and email news updates, now blogs and podcasts, and the future promises to be even more interactive, multimedia-oriented and personal,” Crow said. “The establishment of the New Media Innovation Lab at the Cronkite School will not only give ASU journalism students exposure to the latest technologies but will also enable them through their own work to help shape the future of journalism.”
Tom Mohr, an industry leader who was president of Knight Ridder Digital in San Jose, is the lab’s founding director.
“To innovate on the Web with a team of smart and talented students from multiple disciplines in an academic environment is thrilling,” Mohr said. “I am sure I will learn as much from them as they will from me. The fact that this is real work for a real client - not just theoretical work - makes for a compelling opportunity that I relish.”
Mohr was president of Knight Ridder Digital, which operated 30 sites with 11 million unique visitors each month, until it was sold along with the rest of Knight Ridder Inc. earlier this year to McClatchy Co. Before joining Knight Ridder, Mohr held executive positions at The Nashville Tennessean, Universal Talkware and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The concept for an innovation lab focusing on new media products was developed by Crow and Sue Clark-Johnson, president of the newspaper division of Gannett Co. Gannett executives, led by Jennifer Carroll, vice president for new media content, and Michael Maness, vice president for strategic planning, will work closely with the innovation lab on the first series of research and development projects.
“We are thrilled to be part of such an exciting partnership,” said Clark-Johnson. “We believe this kind of initiative is vital as we expand our reach in the new media world.”
Gannett owns 90 U.S. daily newspapers newspapers, including The Arizona Republic, 22 television stations, including KPNX-TV, the NBC affiliate in Phoenix, and more than 130 U.S.-based Web sites, including the highly successful azcentral.com (operated jointly by the Republic and KPNX-TV).
The New Media Innovation Lab is located in Computing Commons on ASU’s Tempe campus. In 2008, it will move into the Cronkite School’s new building in downtown Phoenix.
Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan said the ASU project will differ significantly from new media efforts at other universities.
“The ideas from the New Media Innovation Lab at ASU will be driven by our students - some of the best and brightest - working together from many schools and departments across campus,” Callahan said. “And our relationship with Gannett makes this a very real, focused research and development effort. Our students will have an unparalleled experience, and they will see the tangible impact of their innovations in the new media market.”
The innovation lab is the second major professional program the Cronkite School has added in recent months. On July 1, the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, which trains hundreds of journalists nationwide each year in business and economics coverage, joined the Cronkite School.