Poynter College Media Project (2021)


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Poynter College Media Project (2021)

This competitive semester-long program offers five independent student media organizations the training, support and resources they need to ambitiously report on projects that impact their campus community. Applications are due Sunday, May 2, 2021.

August 1, 2021– December 31, 2021


  • Apply by May 2, 2021, to be one of five independent student media publications in this semester-long accelerator program
  • Get funding and ongoing training to support your most ambitious and unique campus reporting project
  • Connect with other student media organizations across the country as you navigate similar challenges and opportunities


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Learning Outcomes

If you and your newsroom is accepted, you will learn:

  • The best methods and tools to report on the big stories on campus, using smart interviewing skills as well as data and public records.
  • The best ways to report on topics and then fairly and accurately reflect knowledge.
  • Methods of using journalistic tools and practices to encourage civil public discourse, through campus media outlets, as well as other events and projects.


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  • Apply by May 2, 2021, to be one of five independent student media publications in this semester-long accelerator program
  • Get funding and ongoing training to support your most ambitious and unique campus reporting project
  • Connect with other student media organizations across the country as you navigate similar challenges and opportunities

Training five or more people?
Check out our custom training.

With Poynter’s College Media Project, student media organizations will receive the support they need to elevate their journalism skills and generate impact on their campuses. This unique semester-long program — which is set to offer custom in-person workshops as well as regular online seminars and coaching on a major reporting project — can help student media programs realize their potential to play a critical role as community facilitators in the marketplace of ideas.

Apply today to be one of five college student media organizations in Poynter’s accelerator program. If selected, your student media organization will receive:

  • $1,500 to spend on a reporting project or event that advances civil discourse on your campus.
  • In-person, Poynter-led workshops focused on accountability reporting, editing and storytelling for your entire staff.
  • Exclusive admission to a series of online training events throughout the academic year where you’ll hear from professionals, as well as from the other campuses about their experiences and projects.
  • Training on the best techniques for watchdog reporting that holds the powerful accountable and establishes your campus media as a fair and trusted advocate for students.
  • Insights into the tools of dialogue that model the search for mutual understanding and tolerance through reporting projects and real-life events.

Program History

Campus communities face an ongoing challenge: While they encourage students to engage with provocative ideas, they also strive to create an inclusive environment where all students feel welcome and safe. Student journalists want to serve their communities through traditional journalistic reporting, like fairly and responsibly covering protests, or investigating claims of sexual assault in their institutions. Often, they want to prove to their administration that they are worthy of respect and financing.

This program has provided the ethical guidelines and resources that help student journalists thrive in this environment. Since its inception in 2017, Poynter’s College Media Project has served a total of 32 student media groups.

In its pilot year, Poynter’s College Media Project supported the first-ever Blacktivism conference at Howard University; an expanded, impactful campus-wide debate at Virginia Tech; and an ongoing special project, “Voices of Iowa State.”

In Year 2, Poynter expanded the project to include nine student media organizations. Here are examples of the projects at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, University of Michigan and St. John’s University.

In Year 3, Poynter again expanded the program to coach 10 diverse and impressive publications as campuses shut down during the pandemic. Those students produced work that ranged from highlighting the Black experience on campus to examining a gravesite under campus to investigating their university’s funding structure.


If you need assistance, email us at info@poynter.org.

Training is tentatively set to take place on campuses across the country with pandemic protocols in place. Alternatively, training can be delivered virtually if necessary.

Training should take place before the school year begins, usually in August. Student media leaders accepted into the program will work with Poynter to determine a consecutive two-day training schedule that works for them. Students will then be expected to attend weekly check-in meetings throughout the semester as individual schools, and attend group webinars with personnel from all schools on a monthly basis.

The training culminates with a live webinar with participants from all schools showing their work in December.

All dates and times are TBD as we work with schools accepted into the program.

Who should apply

This program is designed for student media organizations that are independent, where student editors make content decisions. We’re looking for strong project concepts that will have a true impact on the lives of students on your campus, or investigative ideas that will prove compelling and meaningful to members of the campus community.

Please note that in the past, schools with unique project ideas were more likely to be accepted into the program than schools dealing with issues similar to those faced at organizations across the country. While Poynter is ready to help and mentor, the strongest indicator of acceptance into the program is a project that is fully imagined, unique and local.

Applicants should be leaders within a student media organization at a two- or four-year American college or university. Advisers, professors and administrators should not apply for their student media program — instead, encourage a student within the program to apply.

Application process

The process to apply is straightforward and simple — we want you to explain your project plan. No resumes, letters of recommendation or references are required. Please be prepared also to answer questions about your campus media’s history, demographics and leadership.

We can only accept five student media organizations for this year’s project, so we encourage you to apply by May 2, 2021. In years past, we have received nearly 100 applications. Applicants will be screened for potential, need, commitment, diversity in student population, school size and type.


Participation in this project is free, thanks to the support of the Charles Koch Foundation. Per Poynter’s Ethics Policy, no funder plays a role in our program development, including our applicant selection process, curriculum development, webinar topics, leaders and participants’ projects.


  • Barbara Allen
    Director of College Programming
    Barbara Allen is the director of college programming. She spent most of her professional career working in local media and higher education before coming to...
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