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Medill graduate students create innovative media products

October 7, 2015 | By Jasmine Leonas

Medill graduate journalism students created new media products in the summer 2015 NUvention Media class, conceptualizing and bringing to life ideas that strive to solve existing problems and reach new audiences.

The 14 students in the class divided into groups to create four unique products.

“In 10 weeks, we’ve gone from journalists to marketers, business people, coders and artists while working to bring these products to market,” said Ryan Lund (MSJ15), who worked on the Happenstance group.

The NUvention Media class gives students real-world experience in what it takes to develop a successful media product and provides them with the skills and techniques they can use to lead media innovation inside a company or start-up environment.

The following products were created in the 2015 NUvention Media class:

  • Happenstance plays audio stories in Chicago about places and events not widely known. The app delivers random stories, each one to three minutes long. By telling the story of how their advertisers, endemic Chicago companies like Portillo’s and Lou Malnati’s, were founded, the team intends to build revenue while also creating valuable content. The team has already lined up an impressive array of content, from a story on speakeasies by a James Beard award winner to an interview with actor and Chicago native George Wendt.
  • KnowMo engages an audience of American and Chinese millennials in current news through a gaming platform. In research, that audience said there’s too much news to wade through and it’s hard to discern what is important. The product uses games with quippy names like Whack-a-Pol, Quotegate and Newstradomus to make news consumption fun.
  • The Leaf gives experts in global sustainability a free, online platform to connect and collaborate. The platform is simple and efficient, using language a layperson would be able to understand. While the product is built primarily for academics doing research in sustainability, those who want to learn more are able to search profiles and current work on the topic.
  • TWO is a platform for the children of immigrants to share stories about their identity. This underrepresented group is a viable audience for a lasting product. They often out-earn their parents and their numbers are growing. The experience of straddling multiple cultures is poorly represented in other media, so Two gives the audience a chance to keep their parents’ cultures alive while also navigating their own identities.

These projects pushed the students out of their comfort zones, giving them the opportunity to break out of the traditional practice of journalism. They also were able to broaden their skillset and acquire new skills they hadn’t previously cultivated.

“I learned the power of audience research,” said Alysha Khan (MSJ15), who worked on the Two team. “I had one of those moments where you say ‘Oh my God, this actually works!’ I’m journalist, so I’ve never done something like this before.”

Students in the graduate journalism program create innovative products through classes like NUvention Media and as part of the new Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Specialization. Join them by applying to Medill’s MSJ program.