Is central Iowa home to the next great media brand?

For a journalism student, the blogosphere lately has been full of conversations that should lead to some reflection opportunities. First, there’s been the debate surrounding Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten’s public claim denouncing journalists’ personal branding. Then yesterday, Jeff Jarvis posted a less talked about, but insightful, post on Buzz Machine dealing with the value of relationships in journalism versus content. Two seemingly different topics, however, for my peers and for up-and-coming journalists at Simpson College, they weave themselves together in a discussion that’s worth taking apart.

To sum up Jarvis’ “Content Dethroned” post in a paragraph (be sure though, to go and read the post), today, it’s not articles, photos or video in and of themselves that attract people to our journalism. Content now, Jarvis argues, is user generated (i.e., status updates on Facebook) and it’s everywhere. Now, value comes from creating relationships and extracting connections from the mass amount of data that users create. He sites a study in which researches were able to predict the rise and fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average based upon Twitter conversations. Interpreting and reporting these types of connections is the direction in which Jarvis says journalists must realign themselves.

It seems that those on the forefront of new media certainly agree with Jarvis and give credibility to his claim. Keeping that in mind, I’m going to make what may be a radical claim. I think it’s possible for the next great media brand to come out of Simpson College. I’ve been around the people enough to know that the potential is there. Here’s my reasoning.

First, if there’s one thing a liberal arts education prepares you for, it’s making and drawing upon connections between multiple disciplines. It certainly happens in Simpson’s classrooms, but a few students are carrying these connections to the web as well. Check out Senior Erin Guzman’s sites, including her blog and tumblelog. Often, she writes about her studies as a religion major or her world travel and she integrates Twitter (amongst tweets about her roomates’ summer adventures) as a tool for philosophic discussions. It’s personal, but also has journalistic merit and draws connections in a way that is meaningful for readers.

Second, fortunately, we’re in an area of the country where people are building technologies that are fundamentally meant to connect people. This, I think, was highlighted at Macy Koch’s Startup Storm event in April, where speakers such as Dwolla‘s Ben Milne discussed entrepreneurship and startups. While these companies have little to do directly with journalism, the sounding board for ideas that Des Moines-based professionals can offer could be a huge resource for students if they reach out. It’s one personal goal of mine to become more aggressive in networking and I’d love to have more join me.

Also at Startup Storm, Lava Row founder and CEO Nathan Wright complimented Simpson students on being extremely active on social networks, specifically Twitter. While there’s always room for improvement, I think Simpson has some serious momentum on Twitter. If students would readjust their focus on how they use the network, they could be exposed and expose others to the ideas and conversations from which future media brands will grow.

I hope that there are a few others in the Simpson community who see this happening and who recognize the potential for growth. This brings me around to my final point, launching the next great media brand from Simpson College. In one of the many blogs arguing Weingarten’s anti-branding stance, I read a quote from Forbes editor Lewis DVorkin. “Pandering for traffic is not brand building. Winning the respect of your audience is.” To win respect, there must first be a relationship. Simply combine the understanding of relationships and the resources I highlighted above with the passion for communicating and community that I’ve seen multiple times from Simpson students, and you have the recipe for a great brand, right from the “small” school in the middle of Iowa. And who knows, this brand could be developed through the efforts of an enterprising student, or through the team efforts of The Simpsonian (I think it’s poised for great things this year). All that matters is that somebody gets out and does it.
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4 responses to “Is central Iowa home to the next great media brand?

  1. Stephen Henrich

    I’m interested! What are some ways that you envision Simpson students helping to foster such relationships and catalyze growth?

    • For one, I think that Simpson students’ use of social media really is the huge tool. Like I pointed out from the BuzzMachine article, there is a group of researches who were able to use Twitter to predict the rise and fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

      I think Simpson students have the ability to make similar connections via social media, but in different ways. Social justice being such a huge part of the Simpson Experience, I think that’s a great topic to use as a platform for growing a uniquely Simpson media brand. Hope that makes sense.

      • Grant, I agree with you fully. I was hired as a campus intern for Fampus because of how I use social media. Also, ever since my job shadows over May term my Social Media use has increased tenfold. Its a fun and exciting way to stay connected and meet new people.

  2. Grant, your post makes me think of the power students possess in sharing their Simpson experiences with the world, which impacts people’s impression — and in some cases, sheer awareness — of our institution and its excellence. Students can give the brand message thousands of “legs” so that more potential employers, entrepreneurs, and prospective students, as well as the media, become aware of the amazing things Simpson students do. The more we promote our positive experiences at Simpson, the more value our Simpson degrees have.

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