2014 Summer Innovation Project

The MSJ Innovation Project gives students the ability to finish the graduate journalism program by using their honed journalism and technical skills to create new and interesting media products. Students presented their project and demonstrated the five products created over the summer quarter.

A culmination of the MSJ program, participating in the Innovation Project gives students hands-on experience that prepares them to graduate and enter an ever-changing market.

“You can’t ever stand still in media nowadays,” said Connor Walters (MSJ14), who served as editor-in-chief for the Black Tie Optional product and led the Innovation Project presentation. “Someone is always trying to disrupt you; someone is always looking for what you’re not doing. The publications we’re going to be working for, wherever we go, we always have to be continuously improving.”

The products created in the 2014 Innovation Project:

  • Black Tie Optional is “the magazine for young men in Chicago on their way up.” Focusing on 20-30 year old men, the magazine targets readers who aspire to live a luxury lifestyle, but can’t afford one. An online-based publication, the first issue has a responsive design, features stories on relatable celebrities and gives the magazine’s audience a taste of an upscale lifestyle without the upscale price tag.
  • Flash.Me caters to millennials who want to stay current on news, but don’t have the time to look for and read news articles. Striking “a tone akin to your best friend telling you the news,” the app is a daily digest that delivers only the top stories in a format that can be read in two minutes.
  • Owlsight serves small businesses and companies that want to know what their followers are talking about on Twitter. The service is already available, but is prohibitively expensive for brands without large marketing budgets. By tapping into the conversations of core audiences, small companies can build a better understanding of what their customers want and tailor their services the way larger corporations already do.
  • Realize is an existing publication that the Innovation Project team worked with to find ways to better reach the magazine’s audience and expand on a successful concept. Realize readers are hip, young-at-heart and older than 50. The team created a tablet edition and a print edition to the online magazine’s brand identity.
  • Vocalize takes activism into the digital age. A geo-location mobile app, Vocalize gives users the ability to share stories of injustice in real time and find the resources to combat discrimination. As stories are collected, they will be organized and analyzed to identify trends and patterns.

The Innovation Project gives students the opportunity to think broader than their journalism training and learn about creating products that consumers want.

“We were very ambitious in the beginning,” said Supraja Seshadri (MSJ14), who worked on product design for Vocalize. “We had to really focus in on what we were trying to do.”

With their focus turning toward embarking on a career in journalism, the students said the Innovation Project helped them add product creation and pitch to their repertoire.

“Being able to pitch an idea like this is invaluable to any sort of future career,” said Kevin Clifford (MSJ14), who worked on Flash.Me as lead writer/editor.

Watch the Innovation Project presentation here: MSJ Summer Innovation Project