Journalism Deans and Local News Initiative

November 22, 2023

At a time when the very survival of local news is at risk, the Press Forward initiative’s pledge to inject more than $500 million into the journalism that sustains civic life inspires new hope. We applaud the coalition of 22 donors, including anchor investors the MacArthur Foundation and the Knight Foundation, who have made a transformative commitment that can revitalize local journalism.

As leaders in journalism education, we have a vested interest in the health of local news. Our job is to prepare the next generation of journalists, teaching them skills and nurturing a passion for serving communities.

The decline of local news diminishes the opportunities available to our students. But we know this is more than a journalism crisis; it is a democracy crisis. The closure of more than 2,500 newspapers since the turn of the century has left communities in a news drought. People lack the kind of truly local news that helps them be active citizens.

Without that civic capital, our very democracy is at risk.

We believe students in college and university journalism programs can be important contributors to a healthy local news ecosystem. In fact, they already are.

The Center for Community News at the University of Vermont has documented more than 130 university-led student reporting projects in the U.S. About 1,200 students are actively engaged in local journalism. The Pew Research Center found that an astounding 1 in 10 statehouse reporters in the country are students. University-led journalism programs are providing statehouse coverage in 19 states.

While the contributions of student journalists are substantial, we can and should do more. We believe that universities can serve as a backbone for local news, providing coverage on their own and supporting existing local news operations.

We are committing to explore ways that university journalism programs can work together to leverage our assets, expertise, community trust, and experiences to help local news thrive. Expanding student-led coverage of state government presents a ripe opportunity for this effort. We believe there are other opportunities – topic-based or geographically centered – that merit investigation.

We are already undertaking research intended to help us understand how we can best collaborate. What we learn will help guide our next steps.

Our pledge is to work together to build on the impact of our individual institutions. Our faculty and our students have the skills, the commitment and the vision to write a new chapter in American journalism — one in which local news, and the democracy it serves, emerge stronger.

With a deep commitment to leveraging the power of educational institutions for the greater good of democracy,

Geeta Anand
Dean and Professor, Graduate School of Journalism
University of California, Berkeley

Hub Brown
Dean and Professor, College of Journalism and Communications
University of Florida

Elisia Cohen
Director, Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Minnesota

Ginny Whitehouse, Ph.D.
Director and Professor, ICCA School of Communication
Eastern Kentucky University

Barbara S. Gainey, Ph.D.
School Director and Professor of Communication, School of Communication and Media
Kennesaw State University

Kathleen Bartzen Culver
Director, Professor and James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics, School of Journalism & Mass Communications
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Mariette DiChristina
Dean and Professor of the Practice in Journalism, College of Communication
Boston University

Diana Martinelli
Dean, College of Media
West Virginia University

Robin Johnson, PhD
Director, School of Journalism & Mass Media
University of Idaho

Eddith A. Dashiell, Ph.D.
Director, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism
Ohio University

David Boardman
Dean and Professor, Klein College of Media and Communication
Temple University

Juan-Carlos Molleda, Ph.D.
Edwin L. Artzt Dean and Professor, School of Journalism and Communication
University of Oregon

David Craig
Interim Dean and Professor, Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Oklahoma

Sallie Hughes 
Professor and Chair, Department of Journalism and Media Management School of Communication
University of Miami

Ann M. Brill
Dean, William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications
University of Kansas

Kristine L. Blair, Ph.D.
Dean, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Duquesne University

Marie Hardin
Dean, Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications
The Pennsylvania State University

Laura Barrett
Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
SUNY New Paltz

Kenn Gaither, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Communications and Professor of Strategic Communications
Elon University

Mira Sotirovic, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Journalism
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Laura Lindenfeld, Ph.D.
Professor and Dean, School of Communication & Journalism
Stony Brook University

Emily Metzgar
Dean, School of Media and Journalism
Kent State University

Leena Jayaswal
Interim Dean, School of Communication
American University

Dean's Newsletter

Black and white portrait of Berkeley Journalism Dean Geeta Anand with short hair and hoop earrings, wearing a dark top. The background is blurred foliage.

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