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Cronkite School Brings Innovation to Local TV Newsrooms with Knight Foundation Support

February 27, 2020

Knight Foundation’s investment will support the Knight-Cronkite Technology Fund.

Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication will use a $225,000 investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help foster innovation in local television newsrooms across the country.

Knight Foundation’s investment will support the Knight-Cronkite Technology Fund by matching creators of cutting-edge tools with local newsrooms willing to test them. The initiative dovetails with efforts already underway at the Cronkite School to integrate innovative techniques into newsroom storytelling practices.

“This is a natural next step in our efforts to improve local television news, and thanks to Knight Foundation we are now able to bring new tools to our commercial media partners,” said Cronkite Associate Dean Mark Lodato.

The new, 12-month program will solicit newsroom proposals from commercial vendors and then partner with innovation-minded newsrooms as testbeds for those new tools. The program will encourage and support experimentation on a local level to improve news coverage and viewer engagement — and Cronkite students will have front-row seats to experience the innovation.

Cronkite will measure the effectiveness of the new tools in six-month increments, and will offer analysis to the broadcast industry.

Cronkite News, the school’s student-powered newsroom, is working with companies such as AlertMe and iOgrapher, which respectively notify readers and viewers of story updates and improve mobile storytelling and production capabilities.

“Game-changing tools are out there. They just need to be connected with the journalists who are willing to see how they can improve their coverage capabilities,” said Frank Mungeam, Cronkite’s Knight Professor of Practice in TV News Innovation. “The Cronkite School has established partnerships with a number of technology businesses, and those technologies are changing the way our students connect with and inform our community.”

Knight Foundation believes that journalism plays a critical role in fostering informed and engaged communities. The foundation works with projects that lead to transformational, sustainable change.

“Smart applications of technology will make or break a news organization’s ability to serve their audience. Yet few news organizations have the capacity to vet and test these new technologies,” said Paul Cheung, Knight Foundation director of journalism and technology innovation. “This grant is to match cutting-edge tools with news organizations in order to foster a technology conscious culture.”

The foundation has helped establish some of the Cronkite School’s signature programs, providing more than $10 million in support. In 2018, the foundation awarded Cronkite a $1.9 million grant to further digital and broadcast innovation at local TV stations.

In September, ASU was named the most innovative school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. It was the fifth year in a row that ASU earned the honor based on a survey of peers — college presidents, provosts and admissions deans nominated up to 10 colleges or universities that they believe are making the most innovative developments.