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J-Lab Moves to AU; Draws $2.4m Grant From Knight Foundation

J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism has moved to American University’s School of Communication, where it will expand its operations with the help of a $2.4 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to American University.

J-Lab helps journalists and citizens use digital technologies to develop new ways of participating in public life. J-Lab provides award and seed money to professional journalists, citizens, and new media entrepreneurs for innovations in journalism and community news startups; builds e-learning Web sites for interactive and citizen journalism; and engages in training and research.

“I am excited that we have the opportunity to expand our programs in a place as full of energy and focus on innovation as AU’s School of Communication,” said Jan Schaffer, J-Lab’s executive director and one of the nation’s leading journalism reform thinkers.  “Our new affiliation is a good fit for J-Lab’s mission, which is to help transform journalism for today and reinvent it for tomorrow.”

At its new home, J-Lab will use the Knight grant to:

  • Renew the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism.  
  • Fund 16 additional New Voices citizen-media projects.  
  • Create eight to 10 Knight Citizen News Network learning modules and update J-Learning, J-Lab, and J-New Voices Web sites.  
  • Launch five Networked Community News pilot projects, teaming five newspapers with citizen media outlets in each of their communities.  
  • Build a Community Media Toolkit to help foundations fund, vet, support, and measure local media projects.  
  • Ramp up knowledge sharing with a Re-imagining Journalism project.

J-Lab’s J-Learning and the Knight Citizen News Network are Web-based, comprehensive community journalism instruction programs; its McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs project provides seed funding and support for original news ideas proposed by women; and the New Voices project provides start-up funding and instruction for pioneering community news ventures in the United States. The Knight-Batten Awards recognize innovations in journalism and are one of the profession’s most prestigious honors.

Schaffer, a former business editor and Pulitzer Prize winner for The Philadelphia Inquirer, launched J-Lab in 2002 at the University of Maryland, College Park. The move became official in June.

“Jan Schaffer’s J-Lab is a great fit for AU’s School of Communication,” said Larry Kirkman, dean of the School of Communication. “The mission and achievements of J-Lab reflect American’s intense focus on interactive and converged media and our deep commitment to public service and public affairs.  J-Lab will join our Center for Social Media and Investigative Reporting Workshop. Thanks to J-Lab’s move and to the Knight Foundation’s support we have a critical mass of talent and expertise for innovation in journalism and democracy in the digital age.”

“Knight Foundation is dedicated to helping create transformational change in journalism. With American University’s support, J-Lab can do that even more effectively,” said Gary Kebbel, journalism program director at the Knight Foundation.

The School of Communication’s innovative academic programs and professional partnerships make it an ideal home for J-Lab.  The school launched one of the nation’s first master’s degree programs in interactive journalism. Faculty members Wendell Cochran and Amy Eisman have created an online training module for citizen journalists on J-Lab’s Knight Citizen News Network (www.kcnn.org/tools).  Eisman has also developed modules on Web journalism for the 5,500 newsroom employees of Gannett Company, one of the country’s largest news organizations. The school hosted many of USA TODAY’s 25th anniversary celebrations and offers graduate fellowships in journalism from USA TODAY, the Bureau of National Affairs, and the Center for Public Integrity. In addition, the school cosponsors events with the Newseum and has an active speakers program that brings reporters and editors from The Washington Post  into classrooms as guest lecturers.

J-Lab has received grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the McCormick Foundation. Since 2002, J-Lab has distributed about $700,000 in award and grant money to 66 news organizations, journalists, and citizens.

American University’s School of Communication is a laboratory for professional education, communication research, and innovative production across the fields of journalism, film and media arts, and public communication.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes journalism excellence worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation supports ideas and projects that create transformational change.