MIT and the Boston Globe: can universities reboot news outlets?

As old school news outlets struggle to find their footing in the digital world, a new partnership between two flagship Boston institutions presents some intriguing possibilities. The program will see MIT students embedded directly in the Boston Globe while the newspaper in turn provides the school with archives and an audience.

A grant from the Knight Foundation will let the Globe hire a coordinator and a technologist who will establish an ongoing two-way partnership with the school. It will also create fellowships to let MIT students get hands-on work experience at the Globe.

“It’s about finding new ways to distribute and monetize news,” said the Globe’s VP of Digital Initiatives, Jeff Moriarty, in a phone interview. He explained the partnership will provide MIT with access to millions of real life readers who will help determine whether untested news products are practical and can scale. It may also result in new platforms for readers to contribute content as well as an API of Globe stories for MIT researchers to explore.

It’s hard to see an immediate monetization plan here but the instinct seems right. If the project works, it will give MIT’s media boffins a real world environment to test out their products. In turn, it may allow a traditional media outlet be ahead of the curve on the technology front. If there is a way to strap on a business engine, this type of power partnership between universities and newspapers could be a model for other cities.

“We see great promise in building strong bridges between these institutions. The collaboration with MIT is an important, exciting step forward, but over time we envision a broad array of relationships with universities,” Globe Editor Martin Baron said in a statement.

You can read more about the partnership between the Globe and the MIT Center for Civic Media here.