10 universities win third round of challenge to support local news collaborations; The Scripps Howard Foundation joins consortium with $75K grant

By on October 5, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ten universities each won a $35,000 micro-grant to support local news experiments in their communities, the Online News Association (ONA) announced today.

The competitive Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education 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 community mapping to storytelling through immersive and voice-enabled home assistant devices.

The fund is the brainchild of a collaborative that includes the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation. For 2018, the Scripps Howard Foundation joins as the sixth partner to the Fund managed by ONA, the world’s largest membership group of digital journalists.

“This year’s winners were uniquely focused on new ways of storytelling with emerging technology and increasing engagement with underserved communities,“ said Jennifer MIzgata, Director of Programs who administered the selection process.

“From uncovering city ethics violations to presenting their projects to the White House, our Challenge Fund grantees have shown time and time again, universities play a critical role in as partners to news organizations”, said ONA Executive Director Irving Washington.”We’re thrilled The Scripps Foundation joins this group of funders passionate about ensuring journalism education thrives.”    

The competing entries were judged on their ability to create collaborative, student-produced local news coverage, bridge the professor-professional gap, use innovative techniques and technologies and learn from digital-age news experiments. Winning teams included some combination of students, researchers, media professionals, educators, developers and designers.

Winning schools and their experiments, announced Oct. 5 at the ONA17, the Online News Association Conference include:

Michigan State University — Can transmedia journalism help explain how school of choice affects rural and urban communities? | Project Leads: Rachel Reis Mourao and Joe Grimm | @MSUjschool

How do families’ stories and data trends reflect deeper issues of racial and economic diversity and inequality?

Media partners: Gannett’s Lansing State Journal

Ohio University — Rural Remote Reporting Lab | Project Lead: Michelle Ferrier | @ohiou

How can community mapping and social media monitoring of Southeastern Ohio translate into news updates that can reach households in the counties that lack broadband access?

Media partners: WOUB Public Media, including WOUB-FM (91.3) and WOUB.org

San Jose State University — Audience Acquisition via Smart Speakers | Project Leads: Halima Kazem-Stojanovic and Julie Makinen | @SJSU

Can news briefings on audio and video voice-enabled home assistant devices (aka “smart speakers) transform how audiences use those devices and help news organizations gain new audiences?

Media partners: California One

University of Arizona — Boosting community engagement through human-centered design | Project Lead: Michael McKisson | @uajschool

Can students help local newsrooms better serve and engage the community by
researching a their unique needs and identifying ways to solve their problems?

Media partners: Arizona Daily Star, This is Tucson

University of Georgia — Virtual Water Infrastructure Crisis | Project Leads: Bart Wojdynski and Dr. Keith Herndon | @universityofga ‏

Can immersive 360 video can be used to explain critical water infrastructure to news consumers?

Media partners: CNN.com and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

University of Kansas — Datasmart Lawrence | Project Lead: Pam Fine | @KUnews

Can students develop a crowdsourcing framework for locally-focused, data-driven business and demographic news that could also be used by other small news organizations with limited staff resources?

Media partners: The Lawrence Journal-World

University of Miami — The face of a new Cuban diaspora | Project Leads: Sallie Hughes and Alejandro González | @univmiami

What engagement, reporting and distribution techniques will transform Cubans who have arrived in Miami within the last 10 years, an oftentimes under-covered and civically disengaged population, into news consumers and contributors?

Media partners: 14ymedio and other Miami-based outlets

University of Mississippi — Oxford Stories Student News Wire Service | Project Lead: LaReeca Rucker | @OleMissRebels

Can students in Oxford, Miss. transform the local news landscape by creating a new distribution service?

Media partners: The University of Mississippi, HottyToddy.com and the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

University of Nevada, Reno — Adapting digital reporting tools for an immigration-focused student newsroom | Project Lead: Gi Woong Yun |@RSJNevada

How might students build a pipeline for newsgathering, translation, and verification to strengthen local reporting on immigration issues and build trust among immigrant audiences?

Media partners: Meedan and KUNR Public Radio

University of Southern California, Annenberg — Making high-end VR accessible: Immersive storytelling for local communities | Project Lead: Robert Hernandez | @USCAnnenberg

How can students use VR to tell stories of a local community to the local community, as well as translating those high-tech stories into easily accessible experiences?

Media partners: KCRW

With this round, the Challenge Fund now supports 33 schools in their attempts to commit journalism differently. In 2018, the competition will culminate in grand prizes and research prizes for the projects most likely to change local newsgathering, journalism education or both.

About ONA

The Online News Association is the world’s largest association of digital journalists. ONA’s mission is to inspire innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public. The membership includes news writers, producers, designers, editors, bloggers, developers, photographers, educators, students and others who produce news for and support digital delivery systems. ONA also hosts the annual Online News Association conference and administers the Online Journalism Awards.

About the Democracy Fund

The Democracy Fund invests in social entrepreneurs working to ensure that our political system is responsive to the public and able to meet the greatest challenges facing our nation. To learn more visit DemocracyFund.org.

About the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation

Founded by Edith Kinney Gaylord, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation’s mission is to invest in the future of journalism by building the ethics, skills and opportunities needed to advance principled, probing news and information.

About John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

About the Robert R. McCormick Foundation

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is committed to fostering communities of educated, informed and engaged citizens. Through philanthropic programs, Cantigny Park and museums, the Foundation helps develop citizen leaders and works to make life better in our communities. The Foundation was established as a charitable trust in 1955, upon the death of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is one of the nation’s largest foundations, with more than $1.4 billion in assets. To learn more, visit McCormickFoundation.org, follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/McCormick_Fdn, or like us on Facebook at facebook.com/McCormickFoundation.

About the Rita Allen Foundation

The Rita Allen Foundation invests in transformative ideas in their earliest stages to leverage their growth and promote breakthrough solutions to significant problems. It enables early-career biomedical scholars to do pioneering research, seeds innovative approaches to fostering informed civic engagement, and develops knowledge and networks to build the effectiveness of the philanthropic sector. Throughout its work, the Foundation embraces collaboration, creativity, learning and leadership.

About the Scripps Howard Foundation

Dedicated to excellence in journalism, the Scripps Howard Foundation educates, empowers and honors extraordinary journalists who illuminate community issues, and partners with impactful organizations to drive change and improve lives. As the philanthropic arm of The E.W. Scripps Company, the Foundation is a leader in industry efforts in journalism education, scholarships, internships, minority recruitment and development, literacy and First Amendment causes. With a special commitment to the regions where Scripps does business, the Foundation helps build thriving communities.

For more information, contact Jennifer Mizgata, challengefund@journalists.org.


Jennifer Mizgata

Jennifer Mizgata is Director of Programs at the Online News Association, where she leads the Women's Leadership Accelerator. At ONA, Jennifer focuses on identifying talented digital journalists and innovative journalism projects and providing them with support. Jennifer is a business and design strategist with over a decade of experience creating industry-changing training programs, investing in award-winning projects, and managing key relationships with journalism partners and tech stakeholders. She regularly coaches managers, senior leaders and entrepreneurs on challenges related to their careers and launching new ventures. Jennifer shares advice for navigating tough work challenges in Work Space, a monthly column for Fortune.