The Inside Scoop on the Reynolds Foundation's Vision for Business Journalism

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is rolling out a business reporting program, thanks to a $1 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

The school will open its doors in January 2015 and will have the honor of being the only university-based newsroom in the country that produces daily business and economic coverage for regional and national media outlets. The bureau will distribute news through the Cronkite News Service.

We find this to be a particularly ambitious undertaking, particularly when viewed within the context of the larger business reporting space as a whole. The field is dominated by heavy hitters like Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, New York Times — the list goes on. Does the business world need another reporting outlet? The school and Reynolds Foundation obviously think so, and here's why:

First, business reporting is an inherently important area of journalism that touches on small town politics, entertainment and sports. Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan, no stranger to the ebbs and flows of the journalism world, was blunt, noting, "We’ve been doing a lot in business journalism for a number of years now for one simple reason: It’s an incredibly important area of coverage."

Secondly, the program will serve as an incubator for aspiring student journalists. For example, Cronkite is seeking a business journalist to serve as the director of the bureau who will work with top journalism students across the country. The grant will fund four students' participation in this effort.

The Reynolds Foundation has committed more than $115 million nationwide through its journalism program, so it's inevitable that we would compare this development with recent work by other big names in the journalism philanthropy field, like the Knight Foundation.

As we've previously noted, Knight is aiming for nothing less than a total reinvention of journalism. Its Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education calls for a paradigm shift whereby students, professionals, and professors work together under a "teaching hospital" model. Knight is also embracing "hacker-journalists" and "open source" news gathering. Their approach is disruptive, bold, and highly collaborative.

The Cronkite business reporting program, while innovative in its own right, nonetheless suggests that more traditional models of news gathering aren't dead, but merely evolving. Programs like the one founded by the Reynolds Foundation focus on specific elements of journalism — business reporting, for instance — rather than a broader, all-inclusive approach. They embrace hierarchical models by pulling in experts to work closely with students. And they're molding these students for long-term career in journalism.

Ultimately, when it comes to the future of journalism, different foundations may have slightly different visions, but fortunately there's enough room for these visions to happily coexist.