Journalism educators, this $1M is for you

By on December 3, 2013

You and your fellow j-school colleagues have been talking for far too long about that innovative experiment that will shake up your curriculum. There’s a talented student who just needs the right mix of collaboration and inspiration to fulfill her promise. You have a media partner willing to work with you and a cool engagement platform in mind. Researcher: Check. Designer? Could be. Developer? In the wings.

You’ve got the right ingredients to apply for the 2014 Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, and inject up to $35,000 in the form of a micro-grant that can push your idea to launch and — we hope — make both your curriculum and your local news landscape stronger.

The competition, run by ONA and funded by a collaborative that includes the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund, will support live news experiments that further the development of teaching hospital models in journalism education, in which innovative projects are created by teams of educators, students, professionals, technicians, and researchers. Micro-grants will be awarded to 15 to 25 projects to be completed during the 2014-2015 academic year.

“Your project should stretch the limits of what you think you can do,” said Irving Washington, ONA’s Director of Operations and Challenge Fund administrator, in advising applicants. “Don’t be afraid to fail. The goal is to empower journalism schools to lead professional innovation and thought leadership. The size of your school or program shouldn’t limit the project’s ambition.”

Teams will be selected based on ideas that show the most potential for:
* encouraging collaborative, student-produced local news coverage
* bridging the professor-professional gap
* using innovative techniques and technologies
* and producing shared learnings from their digital-age news experiments

The competition will culminate in at least one substantial grand prize for the project most likely to change either local newsgathering, journalism education or both. An overall prize will be given for the best project evaluation, regardless of the experiment’s outcome. The winners and their projects, chosen in consultation with academic advisers and ONA leaders, will be featured at upcoming ONA conferences and other news media education events.

For inspiration, FAQs and resources, visit and follow the conversation on #hackcurriculum. Have questions? Email

Deadline is Feb. 13, 2014 and winners will be announced in April, 2014.

Good luck — we can’t wait to see what you come with up.

Jane McDonnell

Jane McDonnell

As executive director, Jane oversees and manages the day-to-day operations of the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, working closely with the Board of Directors. Her purview includes membership, partnerships, global community outreach, budgeting and revenue generation, fundraising and development, the Online Journalism Awards, and providing vision for ONA’s state-of-the-art annual conference.