Manship School Professor Receives Grant to Further Public Records Journalism
BATON ROUGE – Craig Freeman, associate professor at the Manship School of Mass Communication, recently received a $7,500 grant from the Knight Foundation to establish an online hub designed to assist public records journalism.
The funding program, the Knight News Challenge Bridge Grant, is operated by the Knight Foundation in conjunction with the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, or AEJMC. Recipients use open-source platforms developed through funding from the Knight News Challenge. The aim of the bridge program is to encourage creative use of these platforms to enhance the education of future journalists. Freeman will utilize the funds to introduce students to the Spot.Us platform and demonstrate how it can be used to create the next generation of public records journalists.
“I hope the website allows students more chances to get experience with public records reporting,” said Freeman.
According to its website, Spot.Us is an online platform through which the community can provide financial support for articles or topics that may be of importance but have been overlooked for various reasons.
Though the implementation of the grant and the building of the website began last semester, Freeman is working with his undergraduate honors media law class this spring to boost the project. Students will gather public records documents from the courthouse to find newsworthy stories.
The project allows for flexibility within the classroom and gives students the chance to learn through hands-on experience. Freeman noted that he “understands that this project is an experiment. It’s a learning lab.”
Freeman envisions the project bridging the gap between broadcast and print journalism students so the two can learn from each other.
“I want to encourage students to figure out how to market their stories to the public,” Freeman said. “Even though the project will begin with undergraduates, I hope to integrate graduate students into the project as soon as possible, and I want to encourage any Manship student to get involved.”
Freeman decided to apply for this grant due to his concerns regarding journalism students’ preparedness upon leaving the classroom.
“I’m worried about the future of journalism education,” he said. “I think journalism schools have an obligation to be innovative. It’s a great incentive to change the way we think about journalism education.”
The website had a “soft opening” on Dec. 15. Promotion of the site will occur during the early months of 2013. Freeman has partnered with LSU Student Media for a May launch.
“I can’t wait to get the students involved,” Freeman said. “I think the project will mutate in ways I can’t imagine.”
In receiving this grant, the Manship School joins Knight News Challenge Bridge initiatives such as “Reporting from the Storm” at the University of Oklahoma, the hyperlocal news resource “OpenBlock Campus” at Kent State University and “@SDSU – Where’s the news?,” a mobile news application designed to bring civic and public service issues to San Diego State University.
The Knight Foundation aims to enable sustainable democracy by guiding journalism to its best possible future during this century.
The AEJMC is a non-profit, educational association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals. It is the oldest and largest membership organization for journalism and mass communication educators. More information on the association is available at www.aejmc.com.
Manship School of Mass Communication