That’s how I would describe the time between submitting the IRB and receiving approval.

You’re more familiar with what kind of project you want to create but largely prevented from taking formal steps to create it.

So what do you do? Well, at least for our group, take the opportunity to learn.

1. Talk to experts in an informal context.
We spoke with a University of Alabama professor who runs a master’s program in community journalism. He told us about the structure of the program, which includes both classes and a three-month internship at The Anniston Star newspaper. We also contacted professors from the University of Michigan and Auburn University, and spoke with the director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism, a program in the TCU School of Journalism.

These experts gave us a better understanding of the kind of market we were trying to launch our product in and also the most pressing needs of the community journalism organizations we would be working with. This kind of contextualization in invaluable moving forward and sets up for the next round of interviews.

2. Find similar programs and see what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.
We are looking at the possibility of launching a fellowship for recent journalism graduates to work with community journalism organizations. We’ve considered other post-grad models like Teach for America, Venture for America and AmeriCorps and spent the last week reading criticism of these models and talking to currents ‘fellows.’ It’s important to hear from current fellows about what works (and what doesn’t) within these models and also what attracted them to a post-grad fellowship program.

3. Explore other viability models.
Perhaps the most important thing we did this week was explore other ways to make this product profitable and viable. While we originally set out thinking that the community journalism organizations would be responsible for covering the fellow’s salaries, we’ve since considered and researched other models, including the fellows raising their own salaries prior to the program (a la Green Corps) or working with foundations to fund the fellowship (a la Fulbright).

So while we are anxious for IRB approval and the green light to start setting up formal interviews, this “week of waiting” allowed us to take a step back to evaluate our current proposal and better understand how to make it feasible, desirable and, most important, viable.


Previously on Community Journalism:

Two key strategies for the beginning stages of a prototype

Why IRB calls for specificity 

How might we meet the information needs of communities?



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