UK Receives Rural Journalism Grant

Contact: Mary Margaret Colliver

 

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“Most of the debates journalists have about the nature of journalism excellence are held by the biggest players on the national stage, yet most news gathering in this country is local. What happens in rural America's newsrooms matters.”

- Eric Newton
Knight Foundation
Director of Journalism Initiatives

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (August 3, 2004) -- The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded the University of Kentucky a two-year, $250,000 grant to raise the profile of rural journalism.

The grant aims to create a major survey of rural media, a popular rural journalism Web site, a class in rural journalism, and training for rural journalists. It also will fund a conference bringing together national experts and rural journalists.

The project will be run by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky , which was created in fall 2001 at the UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications. The institute also is supported by a $50,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.

“Most of the debates journalists have about the nature of journalism excellence are held by the biggest players on the national stage, yet most news gathering in this country is local,” said Eric Newton , Knight's director of Journalism Initiatives. “What happens in rural America's newsrooms matters.”

Veteran journalist Al Cross has joined the UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications as interim director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. Cross began his new duties August 1.

The university will launch a national search for a director this fall. University officials have pledged ongoing support for the institute, including a tenured faculty position for the director and the support of a graduate assistant.

The institute was first proposed in meetings between UK President Lee T. Todd Jr., Provost Michael T. Nietzel, and an advisory committee of veteran journalists concerned with the challenges of public policy coverage facing small newspapers and broadcast stations. Its goal, Nietzel said, is to “tackle many of the critical issues that affect the capacity and progress of the nation's rural communities.”

Al Smith, of Lexington , former owner of a chain of weekly papers, chaired the journalists group that advocated the institute.

Smith said, “The impact of socioeconomic change in rural America is difficult to write about in depth at the grassroots, where media itself is one of the institutions being transformed by technology and buyouts by larger, absentee companies.” Noting that only a few million of rural America ’s 63 million people live on farms, Smith added, “The Knight grant expands the opportunity for better reporting about their big issues – education, jobs, health, and the environment.”

UK will partner with Eastern Kentucky University , Washington & Lee University, West Virginia University, Marshall University , Appalachian State University, University of Tennessee , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill , and other institutions to develop programs to expand the outreach activities of the institute and to develop a clearinghouse for curricula related to rural journalism.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues joins a number of other Knight-supported programs intended to increase both existing training and industry investment in professional development. The Ford Foundation is a resource for innovative people and institutions worldwide. Its goals are to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.

The School of Journalism and Telecommunications is a unit of the College of Communications and Information Studies, one of 16 colleges at the University of Kentucky . The School of Journalism and Telecommunications offers three undergraduate majors: journalism (including both print and broadcast emphases), integrated strategic communication (advertising/public relations/direct marketing), and telecommunications. The school participates in the college’s master’s and doctoral degree programs in communication.


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