The Carnegie-Knight Initiative was rooted in a sense that journalism was in trouble. Even before the full impact of digital technology was apparent and the economic model for journalism had collapsed, there was a growing sense that a complex world needed a deeper journalism and better-trained journalists. The nation’s journalism schools were largely responsible for that training, but were widely perceived to be behind the times and, in many cases, marginal players on their campuses.
The Carnegie Corporation of New York convened a gathering focused on revitalizing journalism education in June, 2002, and a product of that gathering was an expression of interest by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to form a partnership with the Carnegie Corporation to fund work on the issue. In 2004, at the request of Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation, McKinsey & Company conducted 40 one-on-one interviews with news leaders to produce a report entitled “Improving the Education of Tomorrow’s Journalists.”
While the report was complimentary of journalism education in ways, the overall judgment was that a “crisis of confidence” had seized journalism, and that journalism schools were not providing an answer to that crisis. Many singled out the need to raise the degree of mastery that journalists bring to the field and a new level of analytical skills that are needed to explain a complex world.
The Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education was announced on May 26, 2005 by Dr. Gregorian and Hodding Carter III, the president and CEO of the Knight Foundation. Carter was succeeded a short time later by Alberto Ibargüen as Knight’s president and CEO, and he and Dr. Gregorian have worked closely in what became a personal as well as an institutional team. Much of the oversight and coordination of the Initiative was shouldered by Susan King, vice president of external affairs at Carnegie, and Eric Newton, vice president for the journalism program at Knight. The Carnegie-Knight Initiative was born of a determination to “advance the U.S. news business by helping revitalize schools of journalism.”