With $31 million, the Missouri School of Journalism will create a hub where citizens, journalists and educators can shape the future of media, MU leaders and others said Monday.
The gift, announced at an afternoon press conference, will be used to establish the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute — a move that will not only bring cutting-edge media technology to campus but also reshape a portion of Francis Quadrangle, MU’s historic heart.
“This is truly a transformational gift both for the School of Journalism and for our institution,” MU Chancellor Richard Wallace said. “The profession of journalism will be forever strengthened, and nothing could be more important to the health of a democratic society.”
The donation — the largest MU has ever received, Wallace said — comes from the Reynolds Foundation, created 50 years ago by media entrepreneur Don Reynolds. More than half of the amount, almost $17 million, will help renovate the aged Sociology Building, which has been closed since 2002, and build an adjacent facility.
The rest will help pay for high-tech equipment and staff salaries over six years. The institute is scheduled to open in 2007, a year before the Journalism School celebrates its centennial.
“Your (school’s) reputation for high-quality, hands-on experience and research were instrumental in the trustees’ decision to fund the institute here,” said Fred Smith, chairman of the foundation.
Reynolds, an MU journalism graduate, died in 1993, a year after the opening of MU’s Reynolds Alumni Center. At the time, his $9 million donation for the center was the highest in MU’s history.
Dean Mills, dean of the Journalism School, said the institute will contribute to the improvement of the field by having professionals and citizens work together to find better forms of journalism.
One area will be “convergence,” a relatively new word in journalism. Mike McKean, MU associate professor of broadcast and new media, said convergence is defined as bringing the best of news media together — from newspapers to radio, from television to the Internet — to cover important stories. Experiments in convergence will be conducted in the institute’s laboratories.
The Reynolds institute will also have an exhibition area, a 120-seat forum, multimedia editing stations, seminar rooms, a new home for the Journalism School’s library and a coffee shop.
Compared with other journalism institutes in the United States, the Reynolds institute will be unique in its citizen involvement and its more extensive academic focus.
Well-known media institutes such as the American Press Institute in Virginia and the Poynter Institute in Florida focus mostly on intensive seminars with news professionals. Mills said the Reynolds institute will benefit from MU’s journalism students and researchers.
“This is going to be of service to everyone in journalism,” Warren Watson, API vice president, said Monday evening.
Watson said the involvement of citizens is not only a good idea but comes at the right time because of the war in Iraq and emerging democracies around the world. API has also received funding from the Reynolds Foundation.
The institute will moderately reshape the northeast corner of Francis Quadrangle, closing a current walkway off Ninth Street between Walter Williams Hall and the Sociology Building. The institute will match the brick and limestone exterior of other buildings on the quad.
Its plans are designed by Shaughnessy Fickle and Scott Architects of Kansas City.
“The architects had been instructed to make the building compatible with the current appearance of the quad,” said journalism professor George Kennedy. He said the Journalism School’s Gannett Hall is a “sore thumb” in terms of its architectural integration into the quad’s historical appearance.
The $31 million gift is part of MU’s fund-raising campaign that kicked off in 1999. With gifts totaling about $400 million, the campaign is $200 million short of its December 2005 goal of $600 million.
The Reynolds gift is a result of contact journalism professor emeritus Roger Gafke had with the Reynolds Foundation, Mills said. Gafke worked closely with the foundation on the creation of the Reynolds Alumni Center.
In January 2003, Gafke orchestrated a meeting of foundation representatives and Mills at the foundation’s headquarters in Las Vegas. Gafke said the foundation was immediately impressed by Mills’ presentation on the potential journalism institute.
Within six months, the foundation had awarded MU’s Journalism School $250,000 to develop a formalized proposal.
The money was spent on architectural plans and on educational trips faculty members took to study a convergence newsroom in Tampa and the Newsplex, a center experimenting with journalism and technology in Columbia, N.C.