MESA, ARIZ. — The advancement of digital and broadcast innovation in local television news just got a bit of a boost, thanks to a $1.9 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
The three-year grant will help to promote innovation in local TV news that fosters informed and engaged communities in three ways: experiments in television news broadcast formats and digital storytelling; leadership program to promote digital transformation, and a digital hub that shares research and best practices.
“This partnership with the Cronkite School will support innovation in local television news and support television newsroom leaders focused on driving change,” said Karen Rundlet, program director for journalism at Knight Foundation. “Cronkite will also create a digital hub that will highlight research and case studies of the best examples of innovation in local television news.”
The grant will support the creation of a program for local TV news leaders that will help provide them with effective change-management strategies and tools. The program will be modeled after the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, a hands-on program for driving digital transformation in newsrooms across the country.
News leaders also will identify specific newsroom experiments that they would like to see tested through Cronkite News, the faculty led, student-produced news division of Arizona PBS.
The Cronkite School will serve as a testbed for experimentation and innovation in both English and Spanish language TV news through Cronkite News. To lead the initiative, the Cronkite School will conduct a national search to hire the Knight Foundation Professor of Practice in TV News Innovation. The full-time faculty member will work with students as well as commercial television stations from across the country to test and measure TV news experiments that promote informed and engaged communities.
The Cronkite School also will seek out and catalogue effective and engaging local TV news initiatives already taking place across the country. The review will include collaborative efforts, multimedia partnerships and more, along with contact information for those working or interested in TV news innovation. The information will be complied into an accessible online resource.
“The need for game-changing innovative ideas in local television news has never been more critical,” said Cronkite School Dean and Arizona PBS CEO Christopher Callahan. “This generous Knight Foundation support will allow television stations to beta test their ideas at the Cronkite School without the risks that often impede change and innovation in the media industry. We look forward this exciting initiative.”
Callahan said Knight Foundation has helped establish some of the school’s signature programs, providing more than $10 million in support. Knight-funded programs include Carnegie-Knight News21, a national fellowship program where top journalism students from across the country conduct national investigations into issues critical to Americans, and the Knight Chair in Journalism, a tenured professorship at Cronkite currently held by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sarah Cohen, who led the data journalism team at The New York Times.