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Knight Foundation president unveils new grant for Cronkite alumni

May 17, 2014

The president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the establishment of a special $250,000 grant for Arizona State University journalism graduates to accelerate innovation in newsrooms across the country.

Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president and CEO, made the surprise announcement during the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s spring convocation ceremony May 15 at ASU Gammage, in front of 255 graduating students and nearly 1,700 guests.

Ibargüen, who leads the nation’s largest funder of journalism and media innovation, said the opportunity grant would offer up to $15,000 to any Cronkite graduate working in a newsroom who proposes an innovative way to advance digital reporting and storytelling.

“We’ve been waiting for [this] generation of digital natives, driven to tell stories, to become the leaders of newsrooms in America,” he said, “and maybe this will help that generational turn go even faster.”

Ibargüen discussed disrupting the status quo in newsrooms across the country to promote innovation. He challenged Cronkite graduates to lead the change with the new grant, which will give them the financial support needed to pursue transformative ideas in newsrooms.

“Think of this grant as a quarter-million dollar bet that you have the drive and imagination to lead in the digital era,” he said. “So, go forth and accelerate disruption.”

During his keynote address, Ibargüen shared his thoughts on freedom of speech in the digital era. He said universities and foundations should consider ways to keep speech free on the Internet.

“It is troubling that we could end up with a licensing of speech on the Internet, unless we firmly establish, while still at the beginning of Internet age, that the applicable law should be like that of newspapers,” he said. “In other words, that we are free to speak, not free to be allowed to speak.”

Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan said Knight Foundation has helped create some of the school’s most important programs, providing nearly $10 million in support. Knight-funded programs include:

Carnegie-Knight News21 – A national fellowship program where top journalism students from across the country conduct national investigations into issues critical to Americans, and showcase their findings in innovative ways on the Web.

Public Insight Network Bureau – A specialized news bureau where students work with professional news organizations to deepen their connections to audiences.

Knight Chair in Journalism – A tenured professorship at Cronkite currently held by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Doig, one of the world’s foremost experts on data journalism.

Callahan said Knight Foundation’s latest support will significantly assist Cronkite alumni in newsrooms looking to advance the profession.

“At Cronkite, we teach our students how to be innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs in the digital age,” he said. “This latest grant from Knight Foundation will help our outstanding alumni promote innovation in newsrooms and the media. We are tremendously grateful to Mr. Ibargüen and Knight Foundation for their transformative support in helping us prepare the next generation of leaders in journalism.”