$2M grant will help Middle Georgia journalists, expand partnership

A $2 million investment will provide more resources and opportunities to aspiring journalists at Mercer University.

The school’s Center for Collaborative Journalism received the additional funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The announcement came Tuesday morning at the CCJ building in Mercer Village, where about 50 people gathered in a classroom.

The center opened five years ago with $5.7 million from the Knight Foundation and the Peyton Anderson Foundation. The partnership involving Mercer’s Journalism and Media Studies Department, The Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting has allowed students, faculty and professional journalists to work together on stories and other content.

“We intended (it) to be a one-time collaboration, ... and the goal was to take a highly successful teaching-hospital model and transform that model to the world of journalism,” Mercer President Bill Underwood said. “As with any experiment there are some things that go really well, there are some things that go less well ... and some that take time to find out how they are going to work. ... But (the center) has been a remarkable success.”

The collaboration has helped attract students to Mercer’s journalism program, he said.

“They want to be part of hands-on journalism,” he said. “I think this is really important work.”

With the new financial support, the center also will team up with 13WMAZ to offer students first-hand TV reporting experience. A full-time staff member with the center will supervise students as they create content for The Telegraph, GPB, 13WMAZ and Mercer TV station WMUB.

By expanding the center’s efforts to include local television news, “We hope it will create even more new lessons for the field,” said Jennifer Preston, the Knight Foundation’s vice president for journalism. “In addition to this project having a major impact in Macon, my hope and my expectation is that this project will have a major impact on local communities and local journalism around the country.”

Tim Regan-Porter, the center’s executive director, said that with the new grant the center will create a community engagement desk “that will explore new ways to engage audiences and keep them motivated and interested in news that really matters to them.”

The funding will also support the center’s digital media camp for high school students, conferences and speaker series, the Couric Media Fellows program that places students in paid summer internships, and GPB operations and mentorship opportunities.

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea

Linda S. Morris: 478-744-4223, @MidGaBiz