Cronkite New Media Innovation Lab

In the Cronkite School's New Media Innovation Lab, journalism students work side by side with computer engineering, design and business students to create cutting-edge digital media products for regional and national media companies and other organizations. Students also pursue entrepreneurial projects in the digital space.

Since 2006, the New Media Innovation Lab has been providing the research and development services media companies need to create new and exciting multimedia products.

The lab has worked on projects for Gannett Co., one of the nation’s largest news corporations, to research the news consumption habits of young people and develop applications conducive to reaching this audience. Students also have developed a variety of other products, including news games, mobile apps, databases, widgets and Facebook applications, for other media companies.

Among these, they developed the AZ Political Directory for the Arizona Guardian. In July 2010, the product won a “notable mention” in the prestigious Knight-Batten Awards, which reward news and information efforts that create opportunities to involve citizens in public issues and supply opportunities for participation. Among the criteria for the awards is fostering new ways of imparting useful information.

Digital media leader Retha Hill directs the lab. Hill joined the Cronkite faculty in the summer of 2007 after nearly eight years at BET, where she was vice president for content for BET Interactive, the online unit of Black Entertainment Television and the most visited site specializing in African-American content on the Internet. Hill was an early media innovator who helped launch The Washington Post’s first Internet news operation.

She replaced founding director Tom Mohr, who 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. in 2006 to McClatchy Co.

In June 2010, Hill won both a $12,000 New Media Women Entrepreneurs grant and a $90,000 Knight News Challenge grant to develop innovative iPhone applications.

ASU President Michael Crow said the New Media Innovation Lab not only gives “ASU journalism students exposure to the latest technologies but will also enable them through their own work to help shape the future of journalism.”

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. Gannett executives work closely with the innovation lab on the first series of research and development projects.

Gannett owns 90 U.S. daily 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 has its own classroom and office space in the digital media wing of the Cronkite School’s new state-of-the-art complex in downtown Phoenix.

The New Media Innovation Lab also allows students who have taken Advanced Digital Media Entrepreneurship to come into the lab with a concept for a media product, and use the space, equipment and lab staff for guidance and mentorship in launching their startup media, software and PR companies. Previously incubated students' companies have received funding through the ASU university-wide Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative.

Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan said the ASU project differs significantly from new media efforts at other universities.

“The ideas from the New Media Innovation Lab at ASU are 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 have an unparalleled experience, and they get to see the tangible impact of their innovations in the new media market.”

Students interested in the lab or organizations wishing to commission the lab should contact Hill at Retha.hill@asu.edu.

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