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UT CCI – the center of collegiate online news

The Intercollegiate Online News Network (ICONN) ties together news web sites from campuses around the nation.
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It began at the University of Tennessee.

The story of how that happened starts in 2006 when Dr. Jim Stovall, Edward J. Meeman Distinguished Professor, had a vision of an online, student-produced news site that would be an active part of the curriculum for the school. Stovall found the people needed to make it happen on the technology side, and, by January 2007, The Tennessee Journalist (tnjn.com) was born.

StovallWith the success of The Tennessee Journalist, Stovall felt that all schools should have a similar program—something where students could learn, experiment, fail and succeed in constructing the future of journalism. He wanted to share what UT was doing, but a network of collegiate web journalists did not exist. “What if we could have an organization of campus student news websites?,” Stovall wondered.

In 2006, when The Tennessee Journalist was getting off the ground, Staci Baird and Johnnie Dobbins created a content management system (later called Ochs), that was easy for students to learn and use. Stovall wanted to share his custom-made, multi-user content management system with the collegiate world. Conversations were had, ideas flowed, and the Intercollegiate Online News Network became a reality.

ICONN is “a set of individuals, academic programs and professional organizations dedicated to connecting web journalists and campus news websites and to advancing education in web and online journalism,” according to the organization’s website, www.jprof.com/iconn/.

Stovall seeks to assist other universities in making the shift from traditional news media to the emerging online format. As one way to accomplish this, ICONN recently held its second annual conference as a way to converge, brainstorm, and develop ideas for moving collegiate news media further into the curricula of member colleges.

During the second conference, Stovall rolled out a generic form of his content management system so that other programs could take advantage of it. “I expect that by the end of 2010, many schools will be using our system,” said Stovall.

Fifty-five people from 14 campuses participated in this year’s conference that focused on best-practices, the future of the industry and building better campus news websites.

Stovall is excited about the possibilities ICONN can provide and thankful to the Scripps Howard Foundation for the funding it has provided in support of the conferences. “We are already sharing content, ideas, and development; but what else might we share? What ideas might we come up with next?” Stovall asks. “We believe the future holds great promise and exciting opportunities in journalism education for all who will embrace it. And, thanks in part to grant support from the Scripps Howard Foundation, it all started here, at the University of Tennessee!”