Student Newsrooms At 10 HBCUs To Receive Influx Of Cash

Student newsrooms at ten HBCUs will receive almost $200,000 in additional funding after Howard University’s Center for Journalism and Democracy completed its inaugural Newsroom Innovation Challenge. The awards for the programs are designed to improve newsroom technology, business operations, audience engagement, and reporting at the various campus newsrooms in addition to helping the students working in those newsrooms to become investigative journalists. 

As Nikole Hannah-Jones, the founder of the Center for Journalism & Democracy as well as the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard University’s Cathy Hughes School of Communication, said in a press release, “HBCU student newsrooms brim with talent, but often lack the resources needed to give students access to the cutting-edge technology and operational support that so many of their peers at predominately white institutions have.” Hannah-Jones said. “This grant program seeks to even the playing field by upgrading student newsrooms and paying stipends for student journalists. Investments in the talent and ambitions of aspiring journalists will fundamentally transform these newsrooms.”

The institutions and grantees receiving the funds are: The Hilltop and HU News Service, both Howard University programs, Morgan State University, the University of the District of Columbia, Morehouse College, Florida A&M University, North Carolina A&T University, North Carolina Central University, Savannah State University, and Texas Southern University. The packages will range from $4,000-$29,000 and will also come with a one-time technology award. In addition to this funding, the newsrooms will receive two years’ worth of funding to pay certain newsroom staff and funding to hire contributing writers, whom they can re-apply to fund for five years.

The program was initially open to the nine members of the Center for Journalism and Democracy’s nine HBCU cohort schools, who were invited to apply in fall 2023 by submitting their vision and goals for what they would do with any awarded funds. The winners of the grants were notified in late April. 

Hannah-Jones sees the fund as part of her larger vision for the university’s journalism center, telling The Dig, “The Newsroom Innovation Challenge is part of the vision I had when I founded the Center two years ago and I am so excited to finally see these resources headed to where they are much needed. When we invest in our HBUCs, we invest in ensuring our multiracial democracy is covered by a multiracial press.”

The institutions who are receiving the funds are thrilled to be receiving the considerable financial support, as Milton Kent, a professor of practice at Morgan State University as well as an advisor to the school’s student newspaper, The Spokesman, told The Dig. “We are profoundly grateful for the awarding of these funds. It will make a significant impact on our ability to bring news and information to our readers,” Kent said.“I can tell you that The Spokesman has lost talented journalists because some of our students can’t afford to work in the newsroom without being paid, so this is huge.”

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