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Cronkite School to launch Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship

May 23, 2007

ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, a Knight News Challenge winner, will receive a major grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to establish a new center at the university devoted to the development of new media entrepreneurship and the creation of innovative digital media products.

The grant, which was announced by Alberto Ibarguen, the Knight Foundation’s president and chief executive officer, will launch the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the Cronkite School.

The three-year, $552,000 Knight gift matches a grant that ASU received earlier this year from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, Mo. A search for the Knight Center’s founding director will be launched immediately.

The Knight grant, unveiled at the Editor & Publisher/Mediaweek Interactive Media Conference and Trade Show in Miami, is part of the foundation’s new Knight News Challenge. The Knight News Challenge is designed to nurture “innovative ideas for using digital news and information to build and bind community in specific geographic areas,” according to the foundation.

“We want to spur discovery of how digital platforms can be used to disseminate news and information on a timely basis within a defined geographic space, and thereby build and bind community,” Ibarguen says. “That’s what newspapers and local television stations used to do in the 20th century, and it’s something that our communities still need today. The contest was open – and will stay open next year – to anyone anywhere in the world, because ‘community’ is something we all can define.”

The Knight News Challenge funded 25 individuals, companies and universities. The largest grants went to the Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, journalist and Web developer Adrian Holovaty, VillageSoup in Maine, MTV, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and the Cronkite School at ASU.

ASU President Michael Crow, a national leader in promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in higher education, thanked Ibarguen for his leadership in media and the Knight Foundation for “this generous and important gift.”

“Communication is undergoing a technological revolution,” Crow says. “The Knight Center will give our students creative and entrepreneurial skills to help lead the changing media industry and provide a setting where they can invent their own innovative digital products.”

Crow says the center was particularly significant, because it was created through the vision of the Knight Foundation and Kauffman Foundation, which he described as “two of the nation’s great forward-thinking philanthropic organizations.”

Students from journalism, computer engineering, design and business will come together in the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship to create innovative new media products and learn how to be digital entrepreneurs.

“Emerging technologies, new methods of storytelling, interactivity with news consumers and innovative ways of thinking about the news all give promise for a better news media future, a future that can engage news consumers, build communities and increase participation in the democracy,” says Christopher Callahan, the Cronkite School’s dean. “The Knight Center will harness that promise and develop innovative new products while growing a cadre of talented young entrepreneurs trained to meet the news needs of a new generation.”

The Knight Center, which will open in August, will work closely with the New Media Innovation Lab, a research and development institute established last year at the Cronkite School that works with major media companies on digital product development. The Knight Center will be housed on the Tempe campus for one year, then move to the digital media wing of the Cronkite School’s new state-of-the-art complex in downtown Phoenix in August 2008.

Today’s grant is the Knight Foundation’s second major gift to the Cronkite School. In 1995, the foundation gave the school $1.5 million to create the Knight Chair in Journalism. Knight Chair Stephen Doig, a Pulitzer-winning journalist who specializes in computer-assisted reporting, will work closely with the Knight Center.