Michigan State University and University of Georgia awarded Challenge Fund prizes

The universities have been recognized by the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education with $50,000 and $15,000 prizes

By on January 8, 2020

Michigan State University and University of Georgia have been awarded prizes from the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education in recognition of the work that both universities have done to innovate within their journalism programs. Michigan State University received a $50,000 grand prize for its project analyzing how “school of choice” policy affects rural and urban communities. The University of Georgia received a $15,000 research prize, recognizing notable research completed as part of a project exploring how immersive 360-degree video can raise community engagement around environmental news stories.

The Challenge Fund provides unique support for journalism educators to partner with local news organizations, and explore new ways of providing information to their communities. Michigan State University and the University of Georgia were among 10 universities awarded $35,000 grants from the fund in 2017, and all 2017 grantees were encouraged to apply for the research and grand prizes.

Michigan State University used their initial grant funding to explore how families’ stories and data trends reflect deeper issues of racial and economic diversity and inequality in Ingham County. The project, a collaboration with the Lansing State Journal, revamped the curriculum in the university’s 300-level multimedia reporting class on public affairs to focus on data journalism, transmedia storytelling and issue-based reporting. Learnings from the collaboration also laid the groundwork to develop an open-source tool for reporters to connect with diverse sources and analyze their community coverage.

University of Georgia’s project examined whether 360-degree video could effectively be harnessed for informative public service journalism — in this case, to meaningfully convey the challenges to the state of Georgia posed by a growing population, more frequent droughts, and aging infrastructure for water storage and distribution. Research from this project is ongoing, and has already been presented at the Association for Education in Journalism in Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference and the International Communication Association conference.

The competitive Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education was created in 2014 to fund experimental projects that encourage collaborative local news coverage and investigations, bridge the academic and professional communities, improve training for students and generate meaningful lessons for digital news.

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, 42 collaborative projects have received over $1.7 million of support through the fund.