UVM launches nationwide effort to grow local news reporting at colleges across the U.S.

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Powered by a $7M investment from Knight Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and others, UVM’s new Center for Community News seeks to re-energize local coverage in underserved news regions

Photo: The Center for Community News.

Photo: The Center for Community News.

VermontBiz The Center for Community News (CCN) at the University of Vermont (UVM) will dramatically expand efforts to grow partnerships between local news outlets and universities across the country, forging a path to sustainability for local reporting in the regions that need it most. Thanks to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and others, CCN will ramp up research, programming, education, and advocacy for student reporting programs, which are playing an increasingly vital role in reporting local news for Americans.

“UVM’s land-grant mission drives us to develop innovative solutions to the challenges vexing communities in Vermont and across the country,” said UVM President Suresh Garimella. “We appreciate these investments by the Knight Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, which demonstrate their confidence in our approach and underscore the importance of trustworthy information to the health of democracy and civil discourse. We are very proud to promote student participation in civic life through the Center for Community News.” 

CCN is the first and only organization in the country devoted to growing news-academic partnerships – a model that has emerged over the past decade in response to shrinking local news resources, fewer beat reporters, and diminished statehouse coverage. These partnerships are mutually beneficial arrangements for students, news outlets, and their communities because they offer hands-on civic experiences for students while providing a pipeline of professional news coverage for communities.

Photo: The Center for Community News.

Photo: The Center for Community News.

“Student reporters now provide millions of people with professional coverage of local issues,” said Prof. Richard Watts, Director, UVM Center for Community News. “Our mandate is to facilitate collaboration, learning and growth across this field of reporting programs to ensure its sustainability in an otherwise volatile news industry.”  

CCN’s ambitious plan to grow news-academic partnerships is made possible by a $5 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; a $500,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and significant investments from the UVM College of Arts and Sciences and generous UVM donors. Knight Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation help lead the Press Forward initiative, a national coalition of funders that have committed to investing in the future of democracy by revitalizing local news and information.

“News-academic partnerships are increasingly becoming a vital source of information in many communities today,” said Jim Brady, Vice President for Journalism at Knight Foundation. “The Center for Community News is helping make this model a viable pathway to sustainability. We’re proud to support CCN’s growth and innovation.”

CCN launched in 2022 with a mission to grow and support partnerships between student reporting programs at U.S. colleges and their local news outlets. It was inspired by the success of UVM’s own news-academic program, which continues to thrive and serve as a laboratory for testing new ideas in sustainable community journalism. 

“Vermont is an ideal testing ground for these innovations because we have relatively accessible government and media at a scale that allows us to be creative and nimble,” said William Falls, Dean of UVM’s College of Arts and Sciences. “As a land grant university, contributing to the civic infrastructure of our state and nation is a priority for UVM.”

Since its inception less than two years ago, CCN has been hard at work in its discovery phase, mapping the landscape of student community reporting; conducting research on the challenges and opportunities for growth in the field; and creating a collaborative community of faculty members who lead these programs. This advance work will empower CCN to dive headfirst into its expanded plans for organizing and supporting faculty leaders in its next phase.

Photo: The Center for Community News.

Photo: The Center for Community News.

“We’re thinking bigger than just news sustainability with these partnerships,” said CCN Managing Director Meg Little Reilly. “We want to cultivate trust in the next generation of engaged citizens, community leaders, news providers, and consumers. These are critical ingredients in a functional democracy.”

CCN accomplishments to date include:

CCN’s next high-priority projects include: conducting an expanded benchmark study of the impact of student reporting across the country; assisting a coalition of southern colleges and HBCUs in a regional strategy to grow student reporting; and exploring the untapped potential for public media partnerships with universities. 

 

About CCN

The Center for Community News at UVM is a nonpartisan nonprofit that is working to grow and strengthen university-led reporting programs around the country, to create a more sustainable future for local news outlets and the communities they serve. 

About the University of Vermont: Founded in 1791, the University of Vermont is the leading public research university where discovery, creativity, community, and action coalesce to secure a thriving future for people and planet. Vermont’s state flagship and land-grant university attracts over $250 million annually in groundbreaking research and enrolls approximately 14,000 students from 50 states and 75 countries. At UVM, students, faculty, and staff work together in pursuit of a healthier, greener future. Learn more at uvm.edu.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

We are social investors who support democracy by funding free expression and journalism, arts and culture in community, research in areas of media and democracy, and in the success of American cities and towns where the Knight brothers once had newspapers. Learn more at kf.org and follow @knightfdn on social media.

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