Knight gives $245,000 to Hampton University to foster newsroom diversity

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced Thursday that it’s giving $245,000 to The Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications. The money will start a Center for Digital Media Innovation at the Hampton, Virginia school and help introduce students at the historically black college to journalism, according to the press release.

“For Knight, support of Hampton University’s new Center for Digital Media Innovation is a way to promote newsroom diversity, which is important both for providing people with a full picture of news in their community and engaging people from a variety of backgrounds,” Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president of journalism and media innovation, told Poynter in an email.

According to the press release, the new center will help students at Hampton University “explore new ways of gathering and distributing media content.”

Students will undertake digital media research projects, and produce business plans and media tools including apps; they will also attend cross-disciplinary classes. Additionally, the university will form partnerships with media corporations and place students in digital media jobs. The program will be open to an estimated 15 to 20 students each semester of the 2-year pilot period.

Many reporters have lost their jobs with changes in the industry, Maness said, but it’s been even more of a challenge for African American journalists, “leaving gaps in fulfilling community information needs: their numbers at daily newspapers have dropped from 1,581 in 2000 to 931 in 2012, according to the American Society of News Editors’ annual newsroom census. During the same period, other minorities saw a smaller rate of decline. This leaves a gap in newsroom diversity and newsroom content, and limits audience engagement within specific groups.”

One way to fix that, Maness wrote, is working with historically black colleges and universities to prepare their journalism students for the industry.

“By supporting fresh initiatives at schools like Hampton we hope that other journalism schools will learn from these experiences, and help modernize journalism education, while filling the diversity gap in newsrooms.”

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