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$250,000 Harnisch Gift Aimed at Journalism Innovation

Yesterday, I promised the official press release on the $250,000 that the Harnisch Foundation presented to Kennesaw State University for our work aimed at journalism innovation.

Here it is:

Kennesaw State awarded $250,000 grant to advance community-based journalism
New business model envisioned to combat erosion of traditional news media

KENNESAW, Ga. (December 19, 2008) – Kennesaw State University and the KSU Foundation received a $250,000 grant from the Harnisch Foundation as part of an ongoing relationship to advance research aimed at discovering innovative ways to produce financially sustainable, high quality and ethically sound journalism.

“The continuing support from the Harnisch Foundation enables KSU to do important work in preserving journalism in our democracy,” said KSU President Daniel S. Papp.

Leonard Witt, Kennesaw State’s Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication and an eminent scholar, has been sharing his ideas about journalism innovation on his blog ( for two years. The grant from the Harnisch Foundation will help Witt expand innovative ways for communities to fund online news media.

“We are living in an era when old journalism models are failing, newspapers are faltering and experienced journalists are losing their jobs,” Witt said.

Earlier this year, The Harnisch Foundation provided more than $60,000 to launch a test run of “representative journalism,” a new concept developed by Witt. It allows communities, individuals and groups to underwrite their own journalists to deliver Web-based local and topical news. The pilot project is a collaboration between KSU and a Minnesota-based online news community. With the new funding, Witt aims to expand this and other concepts nationally.

“Professor Witt is a nationally recognized leader in exploring new ideas for creating and distributing important, ethically gathered, responsibly presented journalism that helps people make informed decisions,” Harnisch said. “Our foundation is pleased to increase its investment in his cutting-edge work.”

Witt’s test project was launched in Northfield, Minn., on “Locally Grown,” an interactive Weblog and podcast with a large participatory following of area residents and community leaders. In July, Bonnie Obremski, a former general assignment reporter for the North Adams (Mass.) Transcript, was hired to file in-depth local and topical stories on the citizen-run blog.

The new funding will help underwrite more applied research, build collaborations and advance innovative projects around the country to test the viability of citizen-funded journalism. “The days of advertising paying the lion’s share of the news and information delivered to a community are waning,” Witt said.

“Ruth Ann Harnisch has provided inspirational, intellectual and financial support for representative journalism from the beginning,” Witt said. “This gift is a tribute to the belief that Kennesaw State is at the forefront of helping reinvent journalism in this era when old business models are crumbling and new ones need to be tested and advanced.”

Watch for continuing updates on the progress made on innovative journalism funding models.


A member of the 35-unit University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State University is a comprehensive‚ residential institution with a growing student population of more than 20‚000 from 132 countries. The third-largest university in Georgia‚ Kennesaw State offers more than 60 graduate and undergraduate degrees‚ including a new doctorate in education.

One Response to “$250,000 Harnisch Gift Aimed at Journalism Innovation”

  1. Jill Says:

    Leonard – congratulations! This grant is really wonderful for you and the project. I remember blogging about the concept when you started to introduce the idea a while back – really pleased to see it grow and expand. Best of luck and happy new year. Of course I’ll be watching to see if this might be something to bring to Cleveland or NE Ohio!