December 18, 2019

Dear everyone who doesn’t think of the Midwest as flyover country: Here’s a cool opportunity to prove it. The University of Michigan’s Knight-Wallace Fellowship is getting a sibling program to focus on regional and local news.

The Knight-Wallace Fellowship for Midwest News will select two fellows to join the 2020-2021 class. Those fellows will:

– Work with the entrepreneurship programs in the law and business schools;

– Need to come from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio or Wisconsin;

– Should be “senior leadership of new journalism organizations and projects based in the Midwest,” according to the application;

– And unlike the traditional fellowships, the fellows won’t have to totally step away from their organizations to take part.

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The fellowship is the latest example of universities joining the programs, projects and people working to strengthen local news.

Other examples include West Virginia University’s NewStart program, an “ownership initiative” aimed at finding, training and matching the next generation of local news owners.

Northwestern University’s Local News Initiative is working with the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Indianapolis Star as learning labs for innovation in local news.

The University of North Carolina is mapping news deserts, and along with Arizona State University, working with the Table Stakes program to help local news.

And the University of Kansas created an online newsroom for a nearby town that lost local news in 2009, with some help on the business side from the University of Missouri.

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The new Knight Wallace fellows will have the opportunity to work with the University of Michigan Law School and Ross School of Business. Stewart Thornhill, executive director at the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, sees what’s happening in local news as a specific case of a more general trend of a “winner takes all” economy. Those same realities have hit other industries, including books, shoes and bad Italian food, he said.

Lynette Clemetson, the director of the Wallace House at the University of Michigan, was founding managing editor of The Root. She sees resources and people heading for the coasts and hopes the fellowship will help to connect and build that same kind of community in the Midwest.

“We have tools and resources,” she said, “and the university has tools and resources that could absolutely benefit people who are trying to revitalize news.”

Kristen Hare covers the transformation of local news for Poynter.org. She can be reached at khare@poynter.org or on Twitter at @kristenhare

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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