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Kennesaw State Gets $1.5 Million Gift to Advance Journalism

I am extremely pleased to announce that the Harnisch Foundation, thanks to its founder and president, Ruth Ann Harnisch, is providing the Kennesaw State University Foundation with a pledged gift of $1.5 million for me to start The Center for Sustainable Journalism here at the university.

Ruth Ann and I found each other thanks to the power of the internet in this digital era. Of course, this power is also disrupting how journalism is practiced and is especially changing the old business models.

The Center for Sustainable Journalism will seek new business models so that high quality, ethically sound journalism continues to have a role in our democratic society. I am in the midst of our SoCon09, conference where the gift is being announced. So I must get back to that, but here is the full press release with the details and a link to an excellent profile about Ruth Ann.

$1.5 million gift will establish innovative journalism center at KSU
Harnisch Foundation award advances work of distinguished communication scholar

KENNESAW, Ga. (February 7, 2009) In the midst of an annual conference designed to pinpoint the Southeast’s niche in the digital media revolution, Kennesaw State University announced receipt of a $1.5 million gift from the Harnisch Foundation to establish a center to research and develop innovative ways to produce and distribute news.

Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp announced the award and the creation of The Center for Sustainable Journalism Feb. 7 at the SoCon09 “Unconference” attended by more than 300 business, non-profit and media professionals, bloggers and digital media enthusiasts.

The center will be overseen by Leonard Witt, Kennesaw State’s Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication, eminent scholar and associate professor, who organized the SoCon09 conference. Witt is a pioneer in developing community-supported journalism models and exploring the potential of online social networks to disseminate news.

Witt’s work caught the attention of Ruth Ann Harnisch, president of the Harnisch Foundation, which supports and funds projects and programs that promote sustainable social change in philanthropy, coaching and journalism. The Foundation initially provided more than $60,000 to support Witt’s launch of a Minnesota-based community-supported journalism project.

“The continuing support we are receiving from the Harnisch Foundation enables KSU to further support the important nationally recognized research being conducted by Leonard Witt,” said KSU President Daniel S. Papp. “This major gift will go a long way in establishing KSU’s prominence in the emerging field of news dissemination through social networks.”

The current award, which will be spread over five years, will help underwrite applied research‚ build collaborations and advance innovative journalism projects regionally and around the country. The center will research and test a continuing stream of innovative journalism projects and nurture the best of them into self-sustaining entities.

“We are living in an era when old journalism models are failing, newspapers are faltering
and experienced journalists are losing their jobs,” Witt said. “This solution-oriented funding comes at a critical time, and with it, we can start to build new models that will ensure journalism continues to play its vital role in our democracy.”

Witt has been sharing his ideas about journalism innovation on his blog ( for six years.

“Technology has changed everything for everyone in every way,” said Ruth Ann Harnisch. “Len Witt understands how that affects the flow of information. I am investing in his leadership in the field because he’s willing to engage in bold experiments that could help shape the future of journalism.”

Witt said the Harnisch’s gift addresses a mutual concern for the future of traditional journalism.

“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,” he said. “It is also a tribute to Bill and Ruth Ann Harnisch, who understand the need to act now to ensure that we have high quality journalism in the future.”

For more information on the Harnich Foundation award to KSU and learn more about Ruth Ann Harnisch, scroll down on this newsletter.

16 Responses to “Kennesaw State Gets $1.5 Million Gift to Advance Journalism”

  1. Griff Wigley Says:

    Holy shit Moly, Len! This is great news… for KSU, for RepJ Northfield, for journalism. Kudos to you and deep appreciation to Ruth Ann.

  2. Bonnie Obremski Says:

    Congratulations Len! I know you’ve been working hard for a long time, with a lot of irons in the fire and big ideas.

    The Harnisch Foundation has been very generous in supporting a few of your projects, including the one we have going in Northfield, Minnesota called the Representative Journalism Project. We started off with some very big goals and we’re still trying to come up with concrete ways to meet them. I think we’ve learned a lot so far with our experiment. If any of your readers are interested in seeing what’s happening on the ground, they should check us out at and at

    We’re all so excited for you and for what this means for journalism!

  3. RepJ Project founder gets $1.5 million to build Center for Sustainable Journalism « Bonnie Obremski, RepJ Says:

    [...] Read more here. [...]

  4. Digidave Says:


  5. Barbara Iverson Says:

    When you were talking about this at WeMedia, I thought it was good idea, but this is really good news. Keep up the stellar work.

  6. Barbara Iverson Says:

    I liked this idea when you were still talking about it a couple of years ago. Good work on the follow-through. Good for everyone in journalism.

  7. Leonard Witt Says:

    Hello Griff, Bonnie, David and Barbara:

    I am still feeling great today. I was flying high yesterday when we broke the news before 300 people at my SoCon09 conference (, and that feeling has not yet diminished. I especially want to personally thank each of you because, hey, you believed in the concept and provided the positive feedback that helped push the idea forward.

  8. Currentbuzz Says:

    [...] [...]

  9. Thomas Vellaringattu Says:

    Congratulations on getting this valuable grant for the University

    We at, Inc have been working on an ambitious project to create an integrated community website with over 10 business models for our local partners to create revenue in the range of $2,000 to $10,000 a month using our platform (testing – will be ready to launch on March 1, 2009).

    The main part of is to involve local partner to work with journalists and students to contribute articles and blogs through

    Every page of the (15 million of them) will be able to accept an article or blog and host on portfolio of the journalist and get linked from the community/category pages.

    I am preparing a letter to President Obama to get some financial help to customize, train the local licensees and publicize the sites locally.

    I would like to know if you can mentor us and whether your department and students at the University take part in this ambitious but noble project.

    Thank you
    Tom Vellaringattu
    Cupertino, CA
    516 655 4317 cell

  10. Julia Schrenkler Says:

    “Congratulations” doesn’t seem a large enough word, but there it is. I’m very happy for you, and look forward to your work with The Center for Sustainable Journalism!

  11. Maurreen Skowran Says:

    Congratulations, Len. That’s great.

  12. “Locally grown” news gets a boost » Nieman Journalism Lab » Pushing to the Future of Journalism Says:

    [...] journalism” or RepJ project. I found out about it because Witt just recently received a grant of $1.5-million from the Harnisch Foundation to set up a Center for Sustainable Journalism at [...]

  13. Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab takes a look at Locally Grown, RepJ and the new CSJ : Locally Grown Says:

    [...] referring to is the new funding that RepJ founder Len Witt just got from the Harnisch Foundation to create a new Center for Sustainable Journalism (CSJ) at KSU in Georgia. No, that doesn’t mean a cash infusion into LG or RepJ Northfield. It’s just that we’re going [...]

  14. “Locally-grown” news gets a boost Says:

    [...] journalism” or RepJ project. I found out about it because Witt just recently received a grant of $1.5-million from the Harnisch Foundation to set up a Center for Sustainable Journalism at [...]

  15. Matt Smith» Blog Archive » SoCon09: I Connected Because I Could Says:

    [...] by the Harnisch Foundation to the Kennesaw State University Foundation. It will help Witt “seek new business models so that high quality, ethically sound journalism continues to have a role in our democratic [...]

  16. Coming soon: the next stage in the evolution of RepJ : Locally Grown Says:

    [...] continued support from the new Center for Sustainable Journalism at KSU in Georgia, there’s going to be a Northfield version of Spot.Us, a community-funded reporting project [...]