A few months back, I wrote a post on the segmentation of journalism funding. The concept is relatively simple. As the Internet and social media continue to democratize and expand the journalism playing field, we're seeing funding dollars go to outlets that focus on specific public issues.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, for example, cut a $1 million check to WNYC that will create a "health unit" at the station. The Reynolds Foundation, meanwhile, seems particularly keen on funding business journalism, doling out $1 million to support the creation of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
But these grants don't emerge out of the ether. The recipient parties—in this case, WNYC and the Cronkite School—do the legwork and draw up the plans, which in turn attracts the funding. Another entity that's been doing a tremendous amount of legwork—in this case, in the critical field of juvenile justice—is the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Georgia's Kennesaw State University (KSU).
If KSU sounds familiar, it's because I profiled them a few weeks ago after it netted $35,000 from the Online News Association and Institute for Nonprofit News to create virtual reality documentaries about youth in the juvenile justice system.
Don't get me wrong—$35,000 isn't chump change, but that figure pales in comparison to the school's most recent windfall. The center at KSU received a $250,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which will fund the center's production of stories and videos about youth affected by substance abuse and youth transitioning out of foster care.
The center will share the stories on its Juvenile Justice Information Exchange and Youth Today, their online and print publications targeted at the youth services industry.
Followers of the Hilton Foundation shouldn't be surprised by this latest gift. As we've previously noted, the foundation is committed to tackling some of society's most pressing challenges, ranging from water-related disease to researching blindness treatments.
The gift to KSU suggests two things. One, the school has consolidated its efforts to become the emerging authority on juvenile justice issues. Rather than try to be all things to all people, it took a niche approach, which, as previously noted, seems to be increasingly popular across the ever-fragmenting journalism world. This decision resonated with the Hilton Foundation.
Secondly, rallying around a cause is one thing, but presenting the cause in a way that engages the public is something else entirely. By embracing traditional content platforms (its online and print publications) and emerging technologies (virtual documentaries), the center frames the issue of juvenile justice in a way that is compelling, humane, and accessible.