Poynter Receives $750,000 Ford Foundation Grant To Expand Sense-Making Programs

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A $750,000 grant from the Ford Foundation will enable The Poynter Institute to expand a series of initiatives aimed at addressing the troubling crisis in journalism by fostering a competitive, independent and responsible news industry that takes full advantage of the emerging digital technology.

Specifically, Poynter will cultivate and incubate new entrepreneurial media models in the digital space; deepen its understanding of how citizens are consuming news in the digital era; create case studies that analyze and help the public understand the workings of the nontraditional news sector, known as the Fifth Estate, and train those nontraditional journalism practitioners in a variety of journalism areas, including ethics and accuracy.

Poynter, a school dedicated to serving journalism in the interest of democracy, aspires through this project to influence — for the good of a democratic society — the news values that are emerging among those who are contributing news and information to this rapidly changing media landscape.

“Poynter has long been a leader in teaching journalists and media owners,” said Poynter President Karen B. Dunlap. “Now we will become a leader in helping citizens make sense of this new universe of news and, hopefully, help the news industry learn how to sustain itself.”

“With the advent of the Internet, consumers now have at their fingertips access to more sources of news and information than ever before, however, the integrity of these new media sources remains uncertain,” said Calvin Sims, Program Officer for News Media and Journalism for the Ford Foundation. “Through our support for the research and training programs of the Poynter Institute, we seek to infuse standards and ethics in the new digital media space to help insure that the information the public consumes is both reliable and responsible.”

With the new one-year grant, Poynter will greatly expand work begun with Ford’s support in 2009 to identify and train the next iteration of news media. First, Poynter will collaborate with members of the Fifth Estate — freelancers, bloggers, entrepreneurs and other Web independents — to expand the ongoing work on a project called Sense-Making, and second, the Institute will build a core of training programs for entrepreneurial journalists, while helping a journalism start-up develop an entrepreneurial model from which others can learn.

Widening its scope on Sense-Making, Poynter will continue its case study program and develop an interactive case study tool that can be used for instruction — either in-person or self-directed. It will create and disseminate the Sense-Making Journal, an investigative online blog that will help the public understand information it receives from new sources of news.

“We intend to become the go-to site for a broad audience seeking clear analysis of the information being pushed out to the public via multiple layers of news and information providers,” said Kelly McBride, Poynter’s ethics group leader and lead faculty for the Sense-Making programs. “We’ll scrutinize news, opinion, “spin,” marketing, even punditry, looking for the truth and motives behind information.”

In May, Poynter will host its second Sense-Making conference in St. Petersburg, reconvening members of the Fifth Estate to help formulate a plan for training new voices in journalism. And it will convene a larger event in June in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Poynter will offer two on-the-ground training programs for non-traditional journalists, strengthening the news they produce by improving craft skills and helping them extend their influence.

“We will encourage the most influential voices in the Fifth Estate to articulate principles that serve the public good and create a process for going forward that ensures those principles will remain the motivating force behind their work,” Dunlap said.

The Institute also will embark on an intense effort to help journalism entrepreneurs, offering two training programs on how to produce quality journalism on emerging platforms while generating sustaining revenue. The Institute also will create an online entrepreneurial course to serve as a continuing, accessible source of training. Finally, Poynter will incubate and support a journalism start-up, guiding the company in audience research and new product development, to include analysis of revenue models most effectively matched with various forms of content provided by the start-up. The incubator will serve as both a laboratory and showcase for lessons learned.

“Our goal is to replace some of the doom and gloom characterizing the current journalism landscape with the energy and enterprise of the entrepreneur,” said Poynter faculty member Bill Mitchell, who will lead entrepreneurial training.

Finally, Poynter will expand its expertise and capacity by naming a Ford Fellow in Entrepreneurial Journalism Teaching. The fellow will work with Poynter faculty to assess the training needs of entrepreneurs, design and teach seminars, help guide the incubator project and report findings.

“We see clearly the connection between shoring up the core of journalism, influencing and strengthening the new entrepreneurs, and using sense-making to help journalists and the public fulfill the greater democratic mission we share,” said McBride. “Amidst great change, our goal remains constant: to promote credible journalism on behalf of the public we ultimately serve.”

About The Poynter Institute

Poynter trains journalism practitioners, media leaders, educators and citizens in the areas of online and multimedia, leadership and management, reporting, writing and editing, TV and radio, ethics and diversity, journalism education and visual journalism. Poynter’s News University offers newsroom training to journalists and journalism students through interactive e-learning modules and links to other journalism education and training opportunities. Poynter’s Web site is the dominant provider of journalism news, with a focus on business analysis and the opportunities and implications of technology.

About the Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than half a century it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Contact information

Kelly McBride, faculty, kmcbride@poynter.org 
Jessica Sandler, marketing director, jsandler@poynter.org
Phone: 1-888-POYNTER (888-769-6837)

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