Reese News Lab is a bit of a strange beast. Tucked away in a mysterious basement corner of UNC’s J-school, the lab often goes unnoticed, or when stumbled upon by stray visitors and newcomers alike, is entered with hesitancy and apprehensive glances. But what I have learned as one of Reese’s newest additions is that once you know Reese, you love Reese. Those who have interned regard it as a second home, and those who have finally deciphered what it is we do exactly regard it as awesome. I’ve heard more than once the casual explanation by those introducing the lab to unfamiliar ears– “This is where the real cutting-edge stuff happens.” As if we’re the crown jewel of J-school, excuse my buzzword. I’ve become accustomed to feeling somewhat like a zoo animal in its natural Carroll Hall habitat what with all the curious and enthralled gawkers who peek their heads through the door on any given day.
But what does it mean to be on the cutting edge of journalism? I’ve come to learn that therein lies the value of Reese News Lab. We tackle the tough questions in a rapidly-evolving industry. We seek answers that allow us to use an ever-expanding digital landscape to journalism’s advantage by toying with new technologies and innovative approaches to the art of gathering and disseminating information to the public. And on our good days, we are pushing the boundaries of that digital landscape and creating the new technologies.
Reese News Lab’s value proposition is that we are attempting to cultivate an innovative mindset in the world of journalism– by creating a space where things are not (and we defiantly assert, should not be) done the same as they have been in the media industry. We work to develop media ventures, in the form of pre-startup products and services, that both push the boundaries of conventional journalism and push the media industry forward into a brighter future. We are taught and challenged to dream big, yes, but also that big dreams can happen– so we develop our projects on the grounds of desirability, feasibility, and viability, to ensure that the product is wanted, able to be created and operated, and financially sustainable. Our value is realized in the intersection of these three goals, where our products simultaneously fulfill them and fill the holes in the journalism industry.
So for all those confused or clueless about what goes on in the lab, we’re simply a group of students living in the space where journalism and entrepreneurship meet. Contrary to how “cutting-edge” sounds, what we do is not all that glamorous. We’re in the trenches of the media industry (quite literally, in the basement of Carroll), fighting to innovate in ways that help journalism to not only survive but thrive. But with the safety net of being housed in a public university, we can have a lot more fun without fear of real world risks. And for me, that means that Reese has become the quintessential playground of entrepreneurial journalism where the value proposition is simply the experience of every triumph and scraped knee alike.