Budding journalists at Morgan State have been focusing on covering city affairs, particularly underserved communities around Baltimore, since last spring. With a boost in funding from the Knight Foundation, they can expand their work in the field.
Jackie Jones, a professor of journalism at Morgan State who chairs the Department of Multimedia Journalism, leads the Baltimore Reporting Project. Student participants have learned the ins and outs of mobile and digital storytelling. Their array of multimedia work ranges from profiles of elected officials and activists to a guided audio tour of art along Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore.
“We wanted to look beyond what happened to Freddie Gray in his neighborhood specifically, to take a broader look at West Baltimore,” Jones said. For students, “it makes so much more sense to have them actively out in field doing something” than sitting in classrooms during lectures, she added.
To build upon the Baltimore Reporting Project’s successes, the Knight Foundation last month picked it as a recipient for a $100,000 grant to be spread out over the next two years. The money is intended to “increase diversity and transform journalism education” by supporting the project.
MSU has a weeklong faculty exchange program with Penn State University. This fall was the journalism department’s turn, which gives students a chance to learn some best practices from visiting Penn State faculty and share some of their own methods, Jones said.
As for the content, some of their innovative approach involves not only producing new media, but plugging in content to non-traditional outlets in underserved communities. As an example, she says they have published stories in church newsletters, which some neighborhood residents are more likely to read than the newspaper.
“We’re trying to make sure that however and wherever they get news information, that we find a way to serve them or create something for them to have conversations within their communities,” she said.
Jones wrote on the Knight Foundation’s website that the money will aid the school in meeting the local news needs of the city. She wrote that her program’s staff and students — and many Baltimoreans — know “there is more to Baltimore than the Orioles, Ravens, crab cakes and, sadly, Freddie Gray.”