Journalism professor receives grant to launch innovative online community news project

A Kennesaw State University journalism scholar’s brainchild – community−funded online news…

Georgia (Feb 22, 2008) — Journalism professor receives grant to launch innovative online community news project

Sabbaye McGriff


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Frances Weyand Harrison

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Journalism professor receives grant to launch innovative online community news project

KENNESAW‚ Ga. (Feb. 22‚ 2008) – A Kennesaw State University journalism scholar’s brainchild – community−funded online news media – will soon take form with the help of a recent grant from the Harnisch Family Foundation and a collaboration with a Minnesota−based online news community.

The foundation’s $51‚000 grant will fund a trial run of a concept called “representative journalism” that envisions communities funding journalists who deliver Web−based‚ local and topical news.

Leonard Witt‚ KSU’s Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication‚ recently began sharing his idea on his blog ( His writings caught the attention of Ruth Ann Harnisch‚ the foundation’s president and a former journalist who encouraged Witt and helped advance the concept.

“The Harnisch Family Foundation is delighted to provide the financial resources needed for the first test of this concept‚” Harnisch said. “From the first time I heard about representative journalism and read Leonard Witt ideas in his blog‚ I was eager to help launch it. Len’s idea has the potential to revolutionize the practice of journalism‚ especially as American journalism struggles with the loss of its advertising support base.”

Witt is launching the project in Northfield‚ Minn.‚ on “Locally Grown‚” an interactive Weblog and podcast with a large participatory following of area residents and community leaders. Griff Wigley‚ one of its managers‚ is considered a pioneer in online community building.

Also joining Witt in the test project will be Chris Peck‚ editor of The Memphis (Tenn.) Commercial Appeal‚ who will act as a part−time editorial consultant. William Densmore‚ founder of the Media Giraffe project at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst‚ will provide administrative support and oversight.

The key question the organizers hope to answer is: How can a community work together to develop a system that funds journalists who provide news and information that meets the community’s specific information needs and desires?

“In the past‚ advertising paid the lion’s share of the news and information delivered to a community‚” Witt noted. “Those days are waning.”

If the Minnesota project succeeds‚ Witt envisions a representative journalism center that will be a full−service hub enabling groups‚ institutions‚ communities or individuals to underwrite their own journalists.

“This is social networking applied to news−gathering and sharing‚” says Witt. “The center will provide everything communities need to have their own journalists‚ while at the same time protecting journalistic integrity and ensuring communities high−quality journalism.”


A member of the 35−unit University System of Georgia‚ Kennesaw State University is a comprehensive‚ residential institution with a growing student population of more than 20‚000 from 132 countries. The third−largest university in Georgia‚ Kennesaw State offers more than 60 graduate and undergraduate degrees‚ including a new doctorate in education.



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit