Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism to extend local reporting with new $2 million support from Knight Foundation

MACON, Ga.—July 25, 2017—Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism, which over the last five years broke new ground in advancing innovative journalism education practices and local community engagement, has been awarded $2 million in new funding by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The investment will help expand the center’s efforts, including support for Georgia Public Broadcasting and the addition of a TV reporting partnership with Macon-based CBS affiliate 13WMAZ, which is owned by TEGNA Inc.

Established in 2012 with $5.7 million in funding from Knight Foundation and the Peyton Anderson Foundation, Center for Collaborative Journalism is a unique partnership between Mercer’s Journalism and Media Studies Department, McClatchy-owned The Telegraph of Macon and Georgia Public Broadcasting. The prototype brings students, faculty and veteran journalists together in a joint newsroom located in Mercer Village. Learning in a teaching hospital model, students and professional journalists work together to deliver strong local reporting and engage members of the community around issues of local concern. The collaboration has led to in-depth coverage of important issues, and allowed students to use the latest digital tools and graduate with a portfolio of published work that gives them an edge in a rapidly changing field.

“The Center for Collaborative Journalism is a great example of how the teaching hospital model approach in journalism education can benefit both students and the community with stronger, more engaged journalism. By expanding the center’s efforts to include local television news, we hope it will create even more new lessons for the field,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism.

“We are thrilled with Knight Foundation’s continued support,” said Tim Regan-Porter, executive director of the Center for Collaborative Journalism. “The foundation has been much more than a funder. It has been a true partner, providing advice and expertise that has helped the center excel. This new grant will enable the Center for Collaborative Journalism to continue to make a difference in the Macon community, in the work of our media partners and in the lives of our diverse student body.”

Since 2012, Mercer Center for Collaborative Journalism students have published more than 600 stories for The Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting, and produced content for National Public Radio, The Associated Press, ESPN and other regional and national media outlets. The center has also completed several major, award-winning community engagement projects, such as “Macon in the Mirror,” which featured more than 600 interviews with Bibb County residents and resulted in a nine-part series in The Telegraph and on Georgia Public Broadcasting. A seven-part series on residential blight influenced the local government to allocate $14 million for blight remediation, and a student-led series on pedestrian safety contributed to the formation of a community task force on the issue. The center is currently in the midst of a project exploring the reasons behind and implications of the resegregation of public schools in Bibb County.

New Knight Foundation funding will enable the center to partner with TEGNA’S 13WMAZ to add a local TV reporting component. The center will employ a full-time reporter who will work with WMAZ and students to produce local news stories for broadcast and for its 13WMAZ.com website, as well as for Mercer’s own TV station, WMUB. Students will also, under the full-time reporter’s supervision, produce video content for The Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Other initiatives that will be supported by Knight funding include:

  • Funding for Georgia Public Broadcasting to support and enhance its local news operation in Macon, including its participation in community engagement projects and activities to train and mentor students.
  • Continued funding of the Couric Fellows Program, which places Mercer students in paid summer internships with The Telegraph, Georgia Public Broadcasting and media outlets around the world. Over the last three years of this program, named for the late Mercer journalism alumnus John Couric (father of journalist Katie Couric), students have completed internships locally and at outlets like Billy Penn in Philadelphia, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and the Cape Argus in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Continued funding for the center’s highly successful summer digital media camp that draws a talented and diverse pool of high school students from around the world for an intense seven-day hands-on experience producing stories on various digital media platforms.
  • Establishment of a Community Engagement Desk at the center to support the center and affiliated professional news organizations in exploring new ways to develop content that engages audiences, including through social media platforms.
  • Funding for a full-time community engagement coordinator, who will work out of the Center’s Peyton Anderson Newsroom and assist partners in coordinating community events, oversee assignments and schedules for the reporting teams, and manage new community-engagement technology.
  • Funding for knowledge sharing through conferences and a speaker series that will bring leading journalists from throughout the country to Macon.

“Macon’s continued development is dependent on creating a community of informed and engaged residents, who can contribute to its growth,” said Lynn Murphey, Knight Foundation program director for Macon. “By involving residents in journalism, listening to resident needs and crafting stories relevant to their lives, the center is helping to secure a better future for Macon.”

Support for Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to advance excellence in journalism and journalism education, and to help news organizations inform people in communities of all sizes through experimentation, innovation and leadership. Knight has made many investments in this area, including the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, which aims to helps advance digital transformation at local news organizations across the country.

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About Mercer University

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at four regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals – Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon – and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. www.mercer.edu

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Media Contacts:

Kyle Sears, Mercer University, [email protected], 478-301-4037

Anusha Alikhan, Communications Director, Knight Foundation, [email protected], 305-908-2646