West Virginia University Reed College of Media recently received a $200,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to expand its Innovator-in-Residence program, introduced last year.
The idea of the program is to "help the educational institution create a more inventive culture," said Eric Newton, senior advisor to the president of the Knight Foundation. "A lot of times, universities can be slow to change, but the innovator residence helps to create more rapid reaction to technologies in news and journalism that have to be solved."
Just as Bloomberg Philanthropies recently poured more money into its successful Arts Innovation and Management program, we can only infer that Knight is expanding the program — which will allow the school to bring in two Innovators-in-Residence each semester—because it has delivered results. So what, exactly, do these results look like?
One example is the Innovator-in-Residence Derek Willis. Willis is a political writer and data journalist for the New York Times, and has collaborated with two classes in the fall of 2014 using Google Hangouts. He helped the class cover the West Virginia senatorial elections from both investigative and data journalism perspectives. The students' work was published on a class blog, and some were even put into syndication across the state.
"(Google Hangouts) provides a more intimate environment for students to interact with the rock stars of journalism," Dana Coester, a professor at WVU, said.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but by bridging the brave new world of cutting-edge technologies and experimental practices with the classic newsroom/collegiate environment, this fund is textbook Knight.
One last point. According to the Knight Foundation, Reed received a larger grant than they would have if they hadn’t demonstrated a concern for the future of journalism and held experimental classes in the past—a point that hopefully isn't lost on journalism schools elsewhere.