One For the Road: The Belo Foundation Sunsets College-Level Journalism Funding

In a profile of the Belo Foundation, we previously noted that it was shifting its focus to urban green spaces and city park expansion. If recent news is any indication, the shifting has commenced.

In what Amy Meadows, former vice president and executive director of the Belo Foundation, called one of "our final college-level journalism education grants," the Dallas-based institution awarded the University of Texas at Austin $1.5 million to create the Dallas Morning News Journalism Innovation Endowment, a fund to support digital innovation in the Moody College of Communication School of Journalism.

It's worth noting that Belo is pretty serious about its transition toward urban park funding and development. So serious, in fact, that the foundation changed its name.

On October 29th, the foundation—formerly the charitable arm of the Dallas Morning News—announced it would change its name to Parks for Downtown Dallas and commit up to $35 million toward new downtown park projects. "We're very proud of what the Belo Foundation has done in its 63 years. This is a new phase," said Robert Decherd, the former Chairman of the A.H. Belo Corporation and Chairman of Parks for Downtown Dallas.

Followers of Belo's work in this field won't be completely surprised by the gift. Belo's signature projects have included a $12 million gift to the UT Austin College of Communication to establish the Belo Center for New Media and to the Division of Journalism at Southern Methodist University in Dallas to assist in the development of its applied journalism program. By focusing on how technology can drive innovation in the field of journalism, the gift to UT Austin is a thematic extension of these previous grants.

According to (what was formerly) Belo, the endowment will support the following:

  • Recruitment of professionals in-residence and other visiting experts who have proven track records in digital media innovation.
  • Recruitment of top graduate students by providing funding through the Dallas Morning News Graduate Fellows Program. 
  • The creation of the position of innovation director to lead and coordinate projects with the graduate and faculty fellows.

The aims of Belo's gift mirror some of the work done by the Knight Foundation as of late, specifically its "Innovator-in-Residence" program and its Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowships, which brings journalists, technologists, academics and other news innovators to campus to work on projects that can advance the field. We won't be surprised if other foundations follow suit.

The foundation provided the seed money for the Belo Center for New Media, and now it's providing an endowment to ensure stability and ongoing innovation. Or to quote R. B. Brenner, director of the School of Journalism, "Now, we’ll have the resources to spark and sustain innovation at all levels of our curriculum.”