Initiative Targets Journalism Training, Free Press in Latin America

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MIAMI – Recognizing the press as the vanguard of democracy, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today unveiled a $3.6 million, four-year initiative to increase and improve professional training and press freedom in Latin America.

“The world needs a free press all the time, not just during economic boom times,” Knight Journalism Program Officer Yves Colon said during the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication meeting in Miami Beach. “In fact, we need press freedom and journalism excellence even more when times are bad.”

The initiative is anchored by a $2 million, four-year grant creating the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin. The center, an incubator for new training programs, will be advised by a committee made up of leading U.S.-based organizations active in Latin American journalism, including the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).

Hodding Carter III, president and CEO of Knight Foundation, said that foundation staff and trustees consider the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas to be “an excellent opportunity to support and expand sound journalistic practices throughout the region.’’

Knight Chair in International Journalism Rosental Alves will direct the center, which officially opens today. Alves, a former reporter in Mexico and editor in Brazil, will organize workshops for more than 500 journalists, launch trilingual distance-learning efforts over the Internet and hold an annual training forum.

“There is a big appetite in Latin America for improving journalism and making it more professional,” said Alves. “That’s where we can make a difference.”

Other new projects in the Knight Latin American initiative include a Latin American journalism training web clearinghouse, and traveling training for editors, reporters, broadcasters and photojournalists. In addition to Alves, Knight Chair journalism professors participating in the training projects include environmental journalism chair Jim Detjen of Michigan State University and new media chair Mindy McAdams from the University of Florida.

“This initiative brings the unique resources of Knight journalism chairs together with the great network nurtured for decades by organizations like Knight Foundation and the McCormick Tribune Foundation,” said Eric Newton, director of Journalism Initiatives for Knight Foundation. “The cooperation between journalism groups here has been extraordinary.”

Knight Foundation already supports Latin American fellowship programs through the ICFJ, Stanford University and the World Press Institute, as well as free press efforts by the IAPA, the World Press Freedom Committee, Internews, the National Security Archive, Inter American Dialogue and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In a recent Knight Foundation report, media analyst Ellen Hume noted that in the past 20 years, Latin America has emerged as one of the few places in the world where a majority of the region’s nations can boast a free press. At the same time, Hume notes significant needs for professional training, especially in countries with new freedom of information laws, such as Mexico.

“This is a region where democracy is under construction,” Alves said. “The press has been the vanguard of the movement. Professional training is needed to ensure that the role of the free press is understood.”

Here’s a detailed look at the newly funded projects:

New Training Programs: The University of Texas at Austin will create new training programs through its $2 million Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. (U. of Texas School of Journalism)

Web Clearinghouse: The International Center for Journalists will create a clearinghouse for all Latin American journalism training opportunities on its web site,, with a $200,000 grant.

Environmental Reporting: Michigan State University is promoting environmental journalism know-how through a $250,000 grant. Jim Detjen, MSU’s Knight Chair, will hold a conference on environmental journalism in Latin America. (MSU’s page for this Knight Center)

Editor Training: A $250,000 grant funds a pilot project by the World Affairs Council aimed at taking U.S. editors to Latin America to help improve coverage of the hemisphere in the U.S. news media.

Regional Training: Florida International University will identify a regional training center affiliation in Peru and coordinate a pilot project there with the help of a $20,000 planning grant.

Photojournalism Training: The University of Miami and the Inter American Press Association repeated their successful photo training workshop in Miami for Latin American photographers in late July with a $250,000 grant, and will take the workshops to Mexico, Panama, Argentina and Peru. (view the resulting photos at U.M.)

Year-long Fellowships: This $420,000 grant ensures the Nieman Fellows program at Harvard University provides two slots for Latin American journalists for the next three years. (Nieman’s ’02-’03 list)

Visiting trainers: The Gateway Program, coordinated by the Inter American Press Association and the foundation for the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication, brought key Latin American journalists, journalism trainers and educators to the United States to meet with their American counterparts through a $240,000 grant.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities. Since its first-ever journalism grant to IAPA in 1954, the foundation has given $180 million to support press freedom and journalism excellence in all its forms.