Medill receives $2.2M grant to educate media professionals

Sheila Burt

A $2.2 million, four-year grant awarded to the Medill School of Journalism will focus on increasing educational development for professional journalists across the nation.

Medill received the grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of the foundation’s larger $10 million initiative to improve existing journalism training and to increase the news industry’s investment in professional development.

The foundation gave Medill a $1.96 million initial grant, along with a $250,000 planning grant, for the four-year project.

The project based at Medill, called Tomorrow’s Workforce, will be led by Michele McLellan, a former editor at The Oregonian in Portland, Ore.

McLellan, also the primary author of “The Newspaper Credibility Handbook,” said the project will concentrate on discovering how to create effective training for professionals. To conduct research for the project, she will visit newsrooms across the nation and talk to people on the corporate and editorial sides of newsrooms.

Effective training could impact newsroom cultures, McLellan said.

“Research has shown that good staff development contributes to higher employee retention,” she said.

About $225,000 of the total grant will be used to expand Medill’s training programs in the next three years.

Richard Roth, associate dean for Medill, will lead the school’s component of the grant with a small group of Medill faculty members. With the money they will determine what type of workshops and programs Medill can offer. Roth hopes to offer one of their first programs to professionals by Spring Quarter.

“One of our missions is to aid industry and the profession,” Roth said. “One of the ways we can do that is provide midcareer training.”

As different types of media have converged in recent years, Roth said journalists must receive more varied types of training in broadcast and print mediums.

“Things really do change a lot,” Roth said. “One of the responsibilities of faculty members is to keep current and to lead the change.”

The Knight Foundation’s $10 million initiative resulted from its findings in a recent study. The foundation discovered that eight out of 10 journalists, and nine out of 10 executives, said they needed more professional development.

Medill Dean Loren Ghiglione said the study’s results show the importance of increased professional training.

If journalists who want additional training don’t receive it, “they may not feel satisfied with their work and may leave their business,” he said, but with workshops they can do an even ” better job and may improve journalism.”