The goal of the $1M Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education is to hack the journalism curriculum using customized versions of the teaching hospital model. The fund supports universities to partner with news organizations, and explore new ways of providing information to their local communities.

Winners receive up to $35,000 in micro-grants to support live, local news experiments. Winners can then compete to win up to $100,000 in additional grand prizes for best project and evaluation.


2017 Winners

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


Once again, we’ve partnered with the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy FundRita Allen Foundation and The Scripps Howard Foundation  to launch this $1 million challenge over the next two years.

Thanks to an initial $1 million grant from the five organizations, our first and second rounds of grant winners are busy experimenting with teams of educators, technologists, researchers, students and media professionals, all excited about collaboratively exploring the possibilities of changing the face of journalism education.

For more information contact challengefund@journalists.org.

What’s new in 2017?

Our goal in this next cycle of the Challenge Fund is to galvanize experiments around themes critical to quality journalism. We also hope these themes foster a more collaborative learning experience within the teams.

We’re focusing the experiments on four core areas

  • Diversity: Experiments will focus on underreported or underrepresented communities. Experiments can focus on unique coverage of these communities or the internal structure of the project teams.
  • Technology: Experiments will focus on building innovative tools or products to advance digital storytelling. Experiments can focus creative ways to engage audiences through technology.
  • Community Engagement: Experiments will focus on stories or ideas that involve the community in the storytelling and newsgathering process. Experiments can focus on outside-the-box ways to engage audiences as part of the story.
  • Civic Participation: Experiments will identify issues of public concern. Experiments can focus on investigative stories that will better inform their local community on issues affecting them.