Model for the future

A new MU center, sparked by a grant of $31 million, seeks to combine traditional journalism and new technology
Monday, April 3, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:40 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

While construction for the new Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute continues on the northeast side of MU’s Francis Quadrangle, the institute’s projects are under way.

One such project in the idea stage is the Missouri Model, a partnership between the institute and the MU School of Journalism. It is based on the idea of journalism theory and practice coming together.

“We’re trying to think of ways that journalism can be accomplished differently,” said Pam Johnson, executive director of the institute.

Abby Pheiffer, a graduate student in photojournalism at MU and a research assistant for the institute, said the Missouri Model is a local news product that is Web-based. It is being created to employ the newest techniques of news gathering and presentation while preserving the traditional elements of journalism, she said.

For example, the project will explore new uses for technology and the Internet in journalism.

“Journalists have to understand that their work is competing with people’s ability to find information now on their own and when they want it,” Johnson said.

The institute seeks to create products that will serve the public in a more comprehensive way, Pheiffer said.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here ... but we are trying to build on some of the great journalism that’s already being done here,” she said.

The first phase of the Missouri Model project involves developing the product and exchanging ideas. For now, the Missouri Model is difficult to define because it is constantly evolving, Pheiffer said.

This project is one of many related to the institute.

Roger Fidler, the first institute fellow, developed a project called Electronic Media Print, or eMprint. This digital publishing platform combines the aspects of a printed newspaper and the interactive qualities of the Web into a downloadable document that can be read on a computer monitor. The Missourian offers an eMprint version.

For Pheiffer, the institute’s value rests in its fundamental purpose: to inform citizens in the best way possible.

“I do believe that journalism is truly important to democracy,” she said.

The institute will be guided by three groups: academics, citizens and journalism professionals, said Suzette Heiman, director of planning and communications for the School of Journalism.

“Those three groups working together is what makes the institute a very powerful idea,” Heiman said.

A $31 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is funding the institute. The foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur Donald W. Reynolds and is headquartered in Las Vegas.

Building costs total $20.1 million, with $16.7 million of that coming from the grant. The remaining $3.4 million is funded by the campus administration, the campus-facilities department and the School of Journalism, said Phil Shocklee, director of campus facilities.

The rest of the grant money, $14.3 million, will be spent on programs, equipment, staffing and technological equipment.

The current grant expires in 2011. But the Reynolds Foundation does not intend to walk away from the project as long as the institute is successful in what it aspires to do, said Roger Gafke, a professor emeritus in broadcast news and the director of program development for the institute.

The institute still needs to generate funding for the future, though.

“The Journalism School in its first 100 years has assembled an endowment of about $50 million,” Gafke said. Most of that money has been in the past few years. “We’ve got to more than double that in the next four years,” he said.

Possible sources of funding for the institute include endowments, partnerships, grants and royalties from products created through its work.

Right now, Gafke is focusing on brainstorming ideas for the institute. Then, he said, the money will come.

Johnson also said that outlining the institute’s projects is the first goal.

“The biggest thing right now is establishing our credentials through the projects we are doing and the building of this wonderful institute,” Johnson said.

The construction is on target for completion in the fall of 2007.

The institute will be housed in Walter Williams Hall and the former sociology building, both of which are undergoing renovations. When renovation is complete, the sociology building will have four floors in the existing three floors of space.

The institute will then house the Freedom of Information Center, Pictures of the Year International and other programs.

The Freedom of Information Center seeks to ensure a free press through study and research in journalism.

Pictures of the Year International is a 60-year-old international photo competition held by the School of Journalism. The institute will compile an electronic archive of each year’s winners in order to expand the accessibility of the exhibits.

The former sociology building will also hold the Frank Lee Martin Memorial Library, which serves the School of Journalism. The library is currently in the basement of the Neff Hall Annex.

The institute will feature a journalism futures lab to be used for testing prototypes and new media vehicles in the areas of print, broadcast and online journalism. Additional spaces will include classrooms, seminar rooms, meeting places and a coffee bar.

A celebration to formally christen the institute, to be held in conjunction with the School of Journalism’s centennial, is being planned for 2008.

“My modest hope for the institute is that it will be, for journalism worldwide, as important as founding the journalism school 100 years ago,” Gafke said.

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