The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Oct 09, 2014

American University fellowship to foster leadership in media innovation

Posted by Jeffrey Rutenbeck

Photo: Associate Prof. Lindsay Grace directs the American University Game Lab and Studio.

Jeffrey Rutenbeck is the dean of the School of Communication at American University, which is launching a new fellowship program with the support of Knight Foundation.

The early 21st century will probably be remembered as the age when smartphones changed almost everything about how we relate to information, the time when social media became the go-to media for anyone under 30, the point when a generation raised on video games reached adulthood -- and the moment of truth for a journalism industry that had sluggishly lost its way.

Managing life in this complex new world requires ever-more complex forms of media, and charting a course of sustained change requires that media leaders develop new mindsets and skillsets that can constantly push, reorganize and reiterate efforts to inform and engage.  

Dean Jeffrey Rutenbeck, American University

Why games?

Having worked with a broad range of game designers for the past 12 years, I’ve long known that their unique approaches to information (aka stories), to audience (aka players), to interaction (aka play) and to motivation (aka rewards) bring value and inspiration to every design problem and social challenge they approach, even those that aren’t obviously game related.  

Video games have long provided an outstanding platform for engaging with complicated subjects and situations. Effective game designers excel at weaving together a compelling mix of context, goals, challenges and rewards that encourages players’ ongoing involvement.  Persuasive play is the element of that engagement that modifies players’ perspectives, understandings, interests, activities or opinions.

The best know that their work is only as good as the last game they’ve released, and they are committed to a constant process of prototyping and reiteration that pushes the limits of their craft. What can journalism learn from the way they think?

As a top school in communication and media located in the nation’s capital, with expertise in journalism practice, media entrepreneurship and a growing capacity in game design and persuasive play, American University School of Communication is embarking on a pilot program to grow new leaders at the intersection of these domains.

With $250,000 in support from Knight Foundation, we are launching JoLT (Journalism Leadership Transformation), a program to incubate a cohort of disruptive leaders who – armed with experience and skills in engagement design, systems thinking and transformational leadership –  will pilot an effort to apply cutting-edge practices in game design to leadership challenges in journalism and media. 

Fellowships, summits and game jams

The JoLT pilot program will host three master’s student fellows, who will enroll full time in the MA in game design (operated jointly with American University’s College of Arts and Sciences) while participating in a range of activities such as news game jams, leadership workshops and design projects for the American University Game Lab and its project partners. JoLT will also enable fellows and leading industry professionals to explore game design thinking, rapid prototyping and journalism trends through two Washington, D.C.- based summits and a speaker series.

We can’t wait to see what new systems, models and innovations will come out of the program.

Visit the American University website for more information and to apply.


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