Posted March 10, 2011

SCT announces new center for public interest reporting

Temple University's School of Communications and Theater (SCT) has been selected by The William Penn Foundation to receive a $2.4 million grant to support a new initiative designed to spur public interest reporting in the Delaware Valley region.

“Temple was chosen to implement the project based on its strong tradition of intellectual freedom, the assets of its faculty who are active researchers in public policy issues across a wide range of disciplines, and the journalistic expertise and professionalism of its School of Communications and Theater,” said Brent Thompson, spokesperson for the William Penn Foundation.

The grant, SCT’s largest single gift since the school was founded in 1967, will support an effort to strengthen public interest reporting by establishing a network of media outlets, the first phase of which is the creation of the Center for Public Interest Journalism (CPIJ).

Developed under the leadership of Thomas Jacobson, interim dean of SCT, and the Department of Journalism, the center is a response to recent studies that show a 20 percent decline in public affairs reporting among Delaware Valley media outlets between 2006 -2010.

“This shift reflects a nationally endemic problem,” Jacobson said. “There’s a lot of media content covering a vast number of subjects but we’re seeing a steady decline in the kind of coverage necessary to nurture the political culture a democracy requires.”

The second phase of the initiative includes the creation of the forthcoming Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network (PPIIN); a collaborative project between local, independent journalists who have a reputation for strong community-based reporting.

A national search for a CEO of PPIIN began in January and is expected to conclude this spring.

Once in place, the CEO will have the opportunity to shape the project by incorporating the organization, assisting in governing board recruitment, leading the strategic planning process, hiring staff and establishing partnerships with other news organizations, said Jacobson.

Anyone affiliated with CPIJ will have access to Temple’s network of journalism educators, training programs, events and several of Temple’s reporting resources including the Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Projects.

“The way we communicate has changed. We want to help journalists reach their audiences effectively, and with the best information possible,” said George Miller, assistant professor of journalism and associate director of CPIJ. “Through the Center we hope to ensure that the Greater Philadelphia region is well-served in terms of news.”