On Friday, the Online News Association awarded 11 projects from 13 universities $35,000 each to seed collaborative news experiments in their communities. The micro-grants are the second set from the competitive Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, which was created in 2014 to encourage journalism programs to experiment with new ways of providing news and information. This year’s winning projects cover issues ranging from poverty to juvenile justice, and food truck lines to logging.
Winning schools and their experiments, announced Friday at the 2015 Journalism Interactive Conference for journalism educators and digital media, include:
“Structured Stories NYC”: Can structured journalism help New Yorkers navigate complex government stories?
“HU Insight”: Can students create a digital network for fact-checking and investigating reports and claims about the African American community?
Partners: National Newspaper Publishers Association, Trice Edney News Wire.
“Immersive Media Coverage of Indiana State Forest Logging”: Can data-driven, immersive multimedia better frame the conversation around the increased logging of Indiana’s state forests?
Partner: The Herald-Times.
Kennesaw State University
“Marginalized Youth Voices Amplified on Virtual Worlds”: Can virtual reality tell the stories of marginalized youth in the Georgia juvenile system?
Partner: Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.
“Milwaukee Poverty Database”: Can a searchable poverty database spur improved coverage or action in Milwaukee’s central city?
Partner: Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service (NNS).
University of Florida
“Gamification and Collaboration: Helping a Community Conserve Water”: Can gamification increase a community’s understanding of water supply and help spur conservation?
Partner: WUFT TV and Radio.
J-School Collaborative: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USC Annenberg, Texas State University
“An Internet of Food Trucks: Adding Maker Culture to J-Schools Through the Internet of Things”: Can a project tracking food truck lines show news organizations how to develop commercially valuable data?
Partners: Omaha World Herald, Austin American Statesman, Los Angeles Times.
University of Nevada, Reno
“Noticiero Móvil”: Can events journalism engage a local Hispanic community to follow government news affecting Latinos?
Partners: Reno Gazette-Journal (RGJ), KNPB-TV, KXNV 89.1 FM.
University of Oregon
“Don’t Wait For the Quake”: Can audience attitudes, measured during a live event, impact emergency preparedness coverage?
Partner: Oregon Public Broadcasting
Washington State University
“Improved Newsgathering in Traumatized Communities”: Can new forms of newsgathering spark engagement in communities in the aftermath of a tragedy?
Partner: The Everett Herald.
West Virginia University
“Stream Lab”: Can sensor journalism increase engagement around contaminated water issues?
Partners: West Virginia Public Broadcasting, The Charleston Gazette.
Six projects received honorable mention: California College of Arts, The City College of New York, North Carolina A&T State University, Seattle University, Temple University, and a second submission from the University of Oregon.
With this round, the Challenge Fund now supports 25 schools in their attempts to commit journalism differently. Just as important, simply applying to the fund has pushed educators to think through their innovative ideas to bring them to life — five of the schools that originally applied or were recognized as honorable mentions actually have pursued their projects, even in the absence of funds.
Spurring a Collaborative Mindset
The best experiments start with an intriguing question. When we launched the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education last year, we hoped to spur a fresh, collaborative mindset around journalism education. Our experiment: Can we encourage more U.S. journalism schools to be thought leaders, innovators and change agents?
With our partners — the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation — we awarded $420K in grants to 12 schools that came up with original ideas on how to collaborate with local newsrooms on innovative projects.
It’s been an exciting journey to see these projects unfold. In the first year, our winners used new tools, relationships, and processes to, just as a sampling, successfully cover the issues emerging from sea level rise; break investigative stories on the New York City Housing Authority and mold in tenements, and launch a student-run digital news portal in New Mexico. They’ve shared their learning along the way at venues across the country, including ONA14, the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, AEJMC, Journalism/Interactive, the International Symposium on Online Journalism and here on EducationShift.
Although these projects are ongoing, our early, independent evaluations already show local newsrooms strongly believe they’re providing valuable partnerships, news, and information.
Where does our experiment go from here? We’ll continue to encourage journalism educators to lead innovation within their local communities as we watch and share the work of our Challenge Fund winners in this space.
Washington Irving is deputy director for the Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists. He serves as ONA’s second-in-command and key contributor to short- and long-term planning and strategy, responsible for all operations, academic programs and professional awards, including theChallenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. As a media diversity advocate, Irving has managed programming and fundraising initiatives for journalists, media professionals and students nationwide. Washington serves on the Journalism Alumni Society Board of Directors of his alma mater, Ball State University, from which he earned a degree in journalism. Reach him at [email protected] or @IrvWashington3.