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J-School receives grant to assist rural newspapers

on Tue, 09/30/2008 - 08:00
The WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism has received a two-year, $85,000 grant from the McCormick Foundation to provide multimedia training to small, rural newspapers throughout the region.

The grant, made through the WVU Foundation, will provide funding for a journalism outreach project led by interim Associate Dean John Temple.

In 30 of West Virginia's 55 counties, nondaily newspapers are the sole local source of news, Temple explained. Most of these papers' editorial staffs lack the time and expertise to develop their Web and multimedia skills or to upgrade their Web sites into sophisticated news portals, he said.

"This is an idea the newspapers really like," Temple added. "I think there is a real need, and it will also be great for our students, too. Receiving the funding from the McCormick Foundation will take this project to a new level."

As part of a new, upper-level class, students and journalism faculty will provide multimedia training sessions at five weekly newspapers, covering Web site development, interactive journalism and multimedia production. The project is called "West Virginia Uncovered: Multimedia Journalism from the Mountains."

"We will demonstrate inexpensive and easy-to-learn equipment and software suitable for online multimedia," Temple said. "Between sessions, the papers can reinforce this training by undertaking their own projects, and the learning will go both ways as students are exposed to the practice of community journalism."

The students also will produce multimedia feature packages for the newspapers, including profiles of citizens who represent trends or issues that affect the people of the county. A newspaper staffer will work alongside each student team to produce these packages.

Multimedia projects will include photo essays; Final Cut and Soundslides projects that involve text, audio, still photography and video; interactive infographic presentations; and written stories with internal and external hyperlinks.

In addition to appearing in the weekly papers, these packages will also run on the School of Journalism's Web site - http://journalism.wvu.edu/ - and in the Carleston Daily Mail.

Six students are participating in the fall pilot class: Tricia Fulks, a news editorial senior from Clarksburg; Elaine McMillion, a news editorial senior from Pinch; Steve Butera, a broadcast news graduate student from Bridgeport; Jessica Rhodes, a graduate student specializing in multimedia reporting from Morgantown; Kendal Montgomery, a news editorial senior specializing in photography from Williamstown; and Megan Bowers, a broadcast news senior from Bridgeport.

Participating newspapers include The Parsons Advocate in Tucker County and The Pocahontas (County) Times. Other newspapers will be added throughout the academic year.

The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky will also participate in the second year of the project, providing advice and helping to recruit papers to participate. Temple plans to expand the project next year to include papers from other Appalachian areas.

In addition to the McCormick grant, the University has awarded the School of Journalism an approximately $10,700 WVU Grant for Public Service.

Temple is the author of two narrative journalism books: "Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner's Office," published in 2005, and the forthcoming "The Last Lawyer: A Death-Row Attorney's Toughest Case."

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