Ensuring that media thrives economically in the digital age. Educating the next generation of journalists. Empowering communities and journalists to work together. Using technology to enhance the diversity of voices in journalism.

Fifty innovators in media, technology, civic life and journalism education from the Pacific Northwest brainstormed ideas around those themes today at Front50, the first event of the Center for Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement.

A month after joining the center as its first chair, former New York Times multimedia editor Andrew DeVigal convened Front50 to engage select community leaders in the center’s work: reinvigorating the promise of journalism in the digital age.

“I’m extremely excited and thrilled by those possibilities and the community we are forming,” he said. “I think the center can really make an impact, and it’s going to be the gathering place for reimagining journalism.”

Based at the George S. Turnbull Portland Center, the new center will bridge University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) programs in Portland and Eugene. Through the center, DeVigal and SOJC faculty will foster new projects that advance public interest journalism, communication and the student experience.

The official launch of the center will be Nov. 7 at SOJC’s annual Hall of Achievement event. Front50 began the conversation with community leaders in advance of that in connection with Willamette Week’s TechFestNW Aug. 15-16.

Several TechFestNW headliners considered pioneers in journalism and technology – Kara Swisher, co-executive editor, Re/code; Trei Brundrett, chief product officer at Vox Media; Matt Mansfield, former executive editor, digital at National Geographic; Justin Ferrell, fellowship director, the d.school, Stanford University; and Tiffany Shackelford, executive director of the Association for Alternative Media – were among the featured Front50 speakers.

“You are not the status quo,” said Mike Fancher, interim director of the center, to Front50 participants. “You are the people who are making changes on behalf of democracy and community wellbeing.”

The center is the incubator for ideas about how to increase community engagement in the new media ecosystem, such as those generated by Front50 participants. By creating community and fostering collaboration among leaders in related fields, the Center for Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement acts as a catalyst to help innovators find the future of public interest journalism.

“It’s great when you bring multidisciplinary people together to solve problems,” said Front50 participant Marcelino Alvarez, founder and CEO of Uncorked Studios.

By Chloe Rask ’16 and Kathryn Thier