ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The University of Michigan announced today that the Michigan Journalism Fellows program has received a $5 million challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and that 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace has given $1 million of the necessary matching money. The journalism fellows program, celebrating its 30th anniversary this week, has been renamed The Knight-Wallace Fellows at Michigan in recognition of their past and present support.
From the Knight endowment, $2 million would establish two fellowships a year for international journalists on the opposite sides of a world “hot spot.” In 2002, for example, a Muslim and an Israeli journalist are in residence. The Knight endowment will also enable the program to assure that environmental studies are offered and create a link with Michigan State University, which has a Knight Chair professorship in Environmental Journalism held by Jim Detjen. Overall, the support will also help the fellowships program maintain its competitive stance in stipends paid to participants, recruiting and outreach. The grant calls for the remaining $4 million to be raised over five years.
“The Knight brothers, and the foundation they founded, were and have been drawn to programs aimed at improving journalism,” said Hodding Carter III, president and CEO of Knight Foundation. “The Michigan Fellows program has created a sterling record of attracting global journalism’s best and brightest, educating them in the key issues of our times, and returning them to newsrooms where they set standards many others strive for. New generations of Knight-Wallace Fellows will continue that tradition.”
Mike Wallace said, “I cannot think of a more satisfying way of ‘giving back’ to the University of Michigan, from which I ‘got’ so much back in the late 1930’s, than to help
midcareer journalists take a year’s time out to study, think, write – or just contemplate their navels. Fact is, Michigan Fellows emerge from that year energized, wiser and better at what they do.”
“I am deeply appreciative to Knight Foundation and journalist Mike Wallace for their support,” said University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman. “We are delighted to rename our program to recognize Knight Foundation, the pre-eminent source of foundation support for journalism, and Mike Wallace, an icon in broadcast news. Both our benefactors stand for the highest values of quality and integrity in the profession.”
Charles Eisendrath, who has directed the program and its fund-raising drive since 1986, said, “Knight Foundation is the program’s largest institutional supporter and Mike is the leading individual donor. That they maintain their confidence in our efforts to support the best in journalism is a deep pleasure and signal honor for all of us.”
The journalism fellows program at Michigan invites 12 journalists from the U.S. and six from other countries each year to Ann Arbor, where participants select their own course of study for an academic year at the University of Michigan. It occupies a unique position because it is part of a public university, is located in the Midwest, and includes specialized training in addition to general studies.
The highly competitive program has 435 alumni including many well-known figures. Among Pulitzer Prize winners are Barry Bearak of The New York Times (2002, international reporting); Henry Allen of The Washington Post (2000, criticism); Mike Vitez (1997, explanatory writing) and William Snyder, a three-time winner in photography. Ellen Soeteber is the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Charles Gibson of ABC’s Good Morning America and Jim Russell, creator of public radio’s Marketplace were also Michigan fellows.
The University of Michigan launched the program 30 years ago with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. A $750,000 gift from Knight Foundation was critical to its continuation when the end of federal support threatened its existence in 1985. Subsequent gifts have established fellowships in business, law, medical and educational reporting. Mr. Wallace’s previous gifts include an endowed fellowship in investigative reporting and, with his wife, the Mike and Mary Wallace House, the fellowship program’s headquarters.