Unique, Joint Newsroom will Help Increase Local Journalism in Macon

Knight Foundation invests $4.6 million to expand local public radio, bring new journalism education model to Georgia and engage residents in critical issues

MACON, Ga. — A new effort will increase and strengthen local reporting by bringing professional journalists to work together with university students in a unique, joint newsroom in Macon’s College Hill Corridor.

The Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University will bring the medical school model to the university’s journalism program. Professionals from The (Macon) Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB Media) will work alongside Mercer students to learn and employ digital-age storytelling skills to meet Central Georgia’s information needs. 

In coming years, the joint newsroom also will launch community engagement projects that will involve Macon residents in choosing important issues to cover, reporting the facts, debating the choices facing them and ultimately creating solutions.

In addition, GPB Macon Radio will expand its staff in Central Georgia over several years and greatly increase the station’s coverage of news, business, arts, sports and culture.

The effort is being supported by $4.6 million in grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Mercer, GPB Media, The Telegraph and Knight Foundation announced the project today at the site of the new center in Mercer Village.

“Journalism and news delivery must stay relevant to changing communities. To succeed, we need to let the technology take us to new places and experiment with new forms of collaboration,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of Knight Foundation. “Forging new ties between journalism schools and professional news organizations holds the promise of discovering new ways to inform and engage communities.

“We are not only funding an experiment and a bold idea; we are also funding the leadership of Bill Underwood at Mercer. It is his vision that not only brought us to the table but makes us hopeful,” Ibargüen continued.

“We hope Mercer’s Center for Collaborative Journalism and GPB Radio Macon will shine as examples of the kinds of journalistic excellence in the digital age that helps communities build themselves,” said Beverly Blake, Macon program director for Knight Foundation. 

Mercer is receiving $3.74 million to establish the Center in Mercer Village, a mixed-use development on campus.

“Through the expansion of our journalism faculty and employment of a clinical education model, graduates of Mercer’s journalism and media studies program will carry forward this progressive agenda, whether in Macon at our partner media, or wherever they end up working,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “Just as our medical students train in teaching hospitals with live patients in real situations, Mercer journalism students will learn in a real-life multimedia newsroom through a one-of-a-kind collaboration with The Telegraph and GPB Media, on whose websites, pages and airwaves their best work will appear.”

“I believe this venture will serve as a model for the media business by expanding journalism resources for our community at a time when traditional newsrooms are shrinking, and by operating the most innovative, collaborative arrangement in America involving public broadcasting, a local daily newspaper and a private university,” said George McCanless, president and publisher of The Telegraph, which is owned by The McClatchy Company, the nation’s third-largest newspaper publisher. “While The Telegraph will maintain its editorial independence, we will work closely with the Mercer journalism faculty and students and with our colleagues at GPB Radio Macon to advance the objectives of this collaborative.”

GPB Media will use $854,000 in Knight Foundation funding to expand its staffing, and through GPB Radio create richer news and local programming at a level not currently available in Georgia outside Atlanta.

“GPB is a trusted Macon citizen and an active presence in the communities of Central Georgia. Now we have the opportunity and the resources to grow this connection into a robust new media enterprise,” said Teya Ryan, president and executive director of GPB Media. “Combining the talents of The Telegraph newsroom with GPB Radio and tapping into the digital DNA of Mercer journalism students, we will create a town hall for Macon and Central Georgia with more enterprise reporting, more storytelling about this community and far greater reach across all media platforms.”

After announcing the effort today, leaders of the four organizations participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking for Phase II of the Lofts at Mercer Village. The entire first floor of the mixed-use development — almost 12,000 square feet —will be devoted to the collaborative. It will house faculty offices, classrooms and labs for Mercer’s Journalism and Media Studies Department, as well as offices for The Telegraph’s editors and an open newsroom that will be shared by the newspaper, the Journalism and Media Studies Department and GPB Media. The public broadcaster’s Macon radio and television studios are steps away from the new facility.

A steering committee, with representatives from all partners and modeled after the successful government structure of the College Hill Alliance, will guide the Center. 

Media Contacts

Mark Vanderhoek, (478) 301-4037 or vanderhoek_m@mercer.edu
Mandy Wilson, (404) 685-2427 or mwilson@gpb.org
Beverly Blake, (478) 301-5011 or  blake@knightfoundation.org
George McCanless, (478) 744-4290 or gmccanless@macon.com