RJI, or the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, has awarded 13 fellowships for the 2014-2015 school year, the largest number that it’s handed out yet. But what may be even bigger news is that six of those fellows will take part in so-called “institutional fellowships,” under which they’ll work directly with media organizations, such as the Washington Post and the Texas Tribune, to try to find solutions to the challenges that face the news industry every day.
The companies that are involved have honed in on a project and a person to oversee it, and RJI will give each company $20,000 and other funds to cover travel and other expenses for the project. The current group of companies that are taking part in the institutional fellowships include the Washington Post, St. Louis Public Radio, VML, LION Digital Media, Huckle Media and the Texas Tribune.
In addition to the six institutional fellowships, RJI has tapped two residential fellows to work full-time on their projects in Columbia, three non-residential fellows, and two University of Missouri campus fellows.
Projects that the fellows will be working on run the gamut from native advertising for small newspapers, to enhancing social media for newsrooms, and telling stories across multiple media platforms.
meet the institutional fellowships
The Washington Post will study how news organizations can display and package news stories in a more memorable and comprehensible way, specifically on mobile devices.
Project leader: Alex Remington, product manager.
St. Louis Public Radio will study how news organizations can most effectively engage niche groups in a community.
Project leader: Kelsey Proud, engagement editor.
VML will explore the most effective, most productive ways to use social media in a news and brand environment that make the most of what Twitter, Facebook, etc., have to offer.
Project leader: Chad Martin, director of social and emerging media.
LION Digital Media will pursue the launch of a digital planning platform that will empower marketers to be able to access local media advertising opportunities easily and effectively.
Project leader: Conrad Jungmann, founding partner.
Huckle Media will study trends in native advertising and their application for small- and medium-sized media companies.
Project leader: Jaci Smith, managing editor.
David Hansen, founding member of Mync, will pursue the development of a new online toolkit that will innovate how rich-media is used on the Web and enable anyone to easily create elaborate video-based Web experiences.
Dan Archer will explore transmedia (publishing different parts of news stories across multiple digital platforms) storytelling through the creation of a visual news consultancy, Empathetic Media, that will provide production services to newsrooms without the in-house expertise or budget to do so for themselves. Platforms will include the Occulus Rift virtual reality headset and Unity game engine (for VR and web apps), as well as interactive webdocs, multimedia graphic journalism pieces and data visualizations produced in HTML5.
Nikki Usher, assistant professor at The George Washington University, will study for-profit startups in journalism, specifically new digital news outlets, to determine if technology is making inroads to “reboot” journalism and provide new opportunities for citizens to consume news.
David Gehring, Global Alliances and Partnership Strategy, Google, will study how news organizations can accurately measure the effectiveness and value of social media when comparing news outlets with an eye toward using the set of metrics as a factor to help raise monetization rates.
Jeanne Brooks, founding executive director of Hacks/Hackers, will study the impact that a network of journalists and programmers will have upon the media industry and how to organize regular collaboration in an organized fashion.
University of Missouri campus fellows
Mary Grigsby, associate professor of rural sociology, will qualitatively examine millennial mobile device usage and how that usage will affect the products and services news organizations should be thinking about.
Bimal Balakrishnan, director of the Immersive Visualization Lab, will explore new ideas for journalism to jump on the 3-D bandwagon and make it easier for newsrooms to stay ahead of this emerging technology.
Stay tuned for more information on the winners. You’ll be able to read more about some of the projects here on Idea Lab.
Desiree Everts is the associate editor for Idea Lab and PBS MediaShift. She’s dabbled in digital media for the past decade including stints at CNET News and Wired magazine.