[Case Study] Using Wireframes to Help Future Journalists Innovate

Richard JonesWhile brand monitoring a while ago, we came across an interesting education case study mentioning Balsamiq. It was written by Richard Jones, a Journalism lecturer at The University of Huddersfield.

He wrote about using Balsamiq in a class he was teaching called Journalism Innovation. The field of Journalism has been disrupted by digital publishing and, more recently, social media platforms, so innovation is in high demand right now. In that spirit, his course requires students to create a business plan for a new media startup. He proposed using Balsamiq to showcase their proposals for their startup "pitch decks."

Here's how he described the rationale in his blog post:

Although it would be easy enough to get them to start websites for their projects (and many will anyway), it would be time-consuming, and also pointless if they’d rather do an app... or have an idea that lives on social platforms only.

What's exciting here is that Richard is not afraid of the changes happening in his industry; he's embracing them. Keep reading to learn more.

Q&A with Richard Jones

What industry do you work in, and what is your title or job description?

I work in Higher Education as a Senior Lecturer teaching journalism at a university in the UK. Before that I was a journalist.

What kinds of things are you excited about in your industry?

I’m excited about the development of social and online media tools, and how these can be applied in journalism and the media – both in terms of how content is created and how it is distributed to audiences.

What suggestions do you have for someone looking to succeed in your role or industry?

I think that while the traditional skills of journalism remain important, the key ability that anyone needs to have in today’s media is the willingness to be flexible.

The key ability that anyone needs to have in today’s media is the willingness to be flexible.

New tools and platforms and ways of telling stories are being developed all the time, and being able to assess which ones are right for you and your outlet and be able to use them effectively, is really important.

One of Richard's students working on their product idea.

Why and how do you use Balsamiq?

I have a final year class in which students, in small groups, work together to come up with an idea for a start-up company based on a new development in the field of media. For those who have the idea of creating an app, I get them to use Balsamiq to mock up wireframes.

This is particularly useful because it saves having to actually go down the route of spending a lot of time and potentially money creating an app – especially when many of the students will not choose to do an app at all.

How did the idea for your new class, Journalism Innovation, come about? Was it based on a real world experience?

It mostly came from a local online journalism outlet that I established in 2010, called Saddleworth News. The experience taught me that being a successful journalist didn’t just require a mixture of traditional and new media skills, but also a range of other non-journalistic abilities including design and business skills. I really lacked those! So when I became a lecturer in journalism I wanted to give journalism students a taste of that.

For his class Richard created a handy helpsheet for using Balsamiq.

Do you have some examples of how your students used Balsamiq in their pitch decks?

Yes, we had a huge range of ideas. Some students from China pitched a WeChat page to help connect stray animals with animal welfare charities. Another group of local students proposed an app that would connect football fans to online commentaries of semi professional clubs. And another idea involved an app that would allow users to select which magazines they’d like to receive every month as part of a subscription box.

Do you see the shift towards social media and online media tools in journalism as positive? How is it changing the way that media is consumed and distributed?

It’s so important for journalists to have business, design and other skills not necessarily considered journalistic.

I think social and online media tools offer all kinds of great opportunities for journalists. It allows us to be more creative, in particular in the ways in which we tell stories.

However, the huge downside is the devastating impact online platforms have had on the traditional business models of media companies, in particular local newspapers. That helps explain why it’s so important for journalists to have business, design and other skills not necessarily considered journalistic.

What is the future of journalism? What will it look like in 10 years?

It’s difficult to say. And if I knew that I’d probably be doing a different job for lots more money! But I think the careers of media professionals will become much more varied: there will be more freelancing and putting a much wider range of skills to use across different fields of the media, which again is why simply teaching traditional journalistic skills of, say, reporting and writing - while still important - can not be the only thing someone like me teaches the next generation of journalists.


Great insights, Richard! We look forward to hearing about what you do next.


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