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Inaugural Newsroom Innovation Challenge Supports 10 HBCU Student Newsrooms

Student newsrooms at select historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) can expect thousands in additional monetary support soon thanks to an initiative at Howard University.

Members of The Hilltop pose with a check from Howard University's Center for Journalism & Democracy, from which fund will go toward technology and staff for the newsroom.Members of The Hilltop pose with a check from Howard University's Center for Journalism & Democracy, from which fund will go toward technology and staff for the newsroom.Elijah Pittman“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,” said Nikole Hannah-Jones, founder of Howard’s Center for Journalism & Democracy, whose mission is to help prepare HBCU students to become investigative journalists.

The Center for Journalism & Democracy plans to award some $200,000 to 10 such newsrooms through its inaugural Newsroom Innovation Challenge. The newsrooms will receive award packages, ranging from $4,000 up to $29,000, aimed at improving newsroom technology, business operations, audience engagement, and reporting at campus newsrooms.

“This grant program seeks to even the playing field by upgrading student newsrooms and paying stipends for student journalists,” said Hannah-Jones, who serves as Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard’s Cathy Hughes School of Communications. “Investments in the talent and ambitions of aspiring journalists will fundamentally transform these newsrooms.”

The initial grant program was open to members of the Center for Journalism & Democracy’s nine HBCU cohort schools. Newsrooms were invited to apply for competitive funding last fall by submitting their vision and goals for strengthening their newsrooms and operations.

The grantees are The Hilltop and HU News Service, both of Howard University; Morgan State University, 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 newsrooms will receive a one-time technology award and funding for two years to pay select newsroom staff and funding to hire contributing writers. Newsrooms can apply to renew the funding for the contributing writers for up to five years.

“It will make a significant impact on our ability to bring news and information to our readers,” said Milton Kent, professor of practice and advisor to Morgan State’s The Spokesman student outlet. “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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