13 universities to experiment with local news collaboration with $430,000 in funding through the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education

By on August 8, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Online News Association today announced that 10 universities each won $35,000 microgrants for the fourth round of the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. The fund also awarded a $50,000 grand prize to the University of Nevada, Reno, and research prizes of $15,000 each to San Diego State University and West Virginia University.

The projects receiving funding were announced Aug. 8 at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) 2018 Conference. This year’s winning projects include experiments in community data journalism, covering the U.S.-Mexico border and delivering news in rural indigenous communities.

The 10 winning universities for this year’s microgrants and their projects include:

  • Emerson College
    Putting FOIA to Work: Using Freedom of Information Act Requests to Engage Communities in Locally Relevant Reporting
  • Howard University
    The News Oasis
  • Northern Arizona University
    Media Justice: Cultivating a Citizen-Based News Ecosystem for Underserved and Indigenous Communities
  • Northeastern Illinois University
    DACAmentation: Journalism by Dreamers for Dreamers
  • Quinnipiac University
    Three Billboards (+Three Listening Posts) Inside Hamden, Connecticut
  • University of Maryland
    Frozen out: a Community Data Journalism Project
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Ai Journalist
  • University of Texas at El Paso
    Engaging Community Across Borders through Media
  • Wake Forest University
    Reporting Race and Immigration from the Other Side of the Great Divide
  • Washington State University
    Can Community-Guided “Parachute” Journalism Lead to Meaningful Coverage in Rural Areas?

Past microgrant winners competed for additional funding through a research prize or grand prize, representing the projects that best embody the spirit of the challenge.

The University of Nevada, Reno, won the $50,000 grand prize for the 2015 Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. The award recognizes the innovative Noticiero Móvil project, which adapts digital reporting tools for an immigration-focused student newsroom.

San Diego State University was awarded the research prize for the 2015 Challenge Fund projects. Their project What’s in the Air is a collaboration on innovative newsgathering about air quality in San Diego.

West Virginia University was awarded the research prize for the 2014 Challenge Fund projects. The award honors the project Stream Lab, exploring a model for beacon-triggered, sensor journalism in West Virginia waterways.

The Challenge Fund was created in 2014 to encourage journalism programs to partner with local news organizations and experiment with new ways of providing news and information. The fund is a partnership between the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund, Rita Allen Foundation, The Scripps Howard Foundation and Online News Association. In total, 43 collaborative projects have received over $1.5 million of support through the fund.

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.

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 Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. 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.



Karolle Rabarison

Karolle Rabarison is ONA's Director of Communications. She collaborates across the team to connect ONA members and the broader journalism community to emerging tech and leadership training, networking, industry trends, and career development resources.