Saturday, February 7, 2009

Witt gets $1.5 million from Harnisch to start new Center for Sustainable Journalism

Bleak as the layoffs scene may be, there is always a silver lining which keeps the future aglitter.

I am pleased to report that Leonard Witt will receive a gift of -- no kidding -- $1.5 million to start a Center for Sustainable Journalism in suburban Atlanta.

The gift, one of the largest ever offered to a citizen journalism scholar, is pledged by the Harnisch Foundation to the Kennesaw State University Foundation. It will help Witt "seek new business models so that high quality, ethically sound journalism continues to have a role in our democratic society."

The Foundation, established by Ruth Ann Harnisch in New York in 1998 with the motto, "If people knew better, they'd do better," is already invested in Witt's idea of representative journalism. Late last year it gave Witt a quarter million dollars for "creating leading-edge experiments in new journalism for the digital age at a time of upheaval in traditional media."

One of Witt's community-supported journalism crucibles may be found here. A quick profile of Ruth Ann Harnisch is available by scrolling down here (pdf 820k).

Witt's story is inspiring for his achievements as much as for his warmly deliberative personality. I am proud to count him as a mentor and friend (he and his enthusiastic wife Diana flew to India for my wedding in 2006.)

Formerly a magazine journalist in Pennsylvania and in Minnesota, Witt edited a book on feature writing and also served as executive director of Minnesota Public Radio's Civic Journalism Initiative. In 2002 he assumed an endowed chair at Kennesaw State -- and found his niche. A few months later he founded the Public Journalism Network.

Since then Witt has emerged as a national figure in the deliberations of journalism reform. Having glided into the professoriate from journalism, Witt's accessible style of sharing ideas stands out in a culture which sometimes accepts inscrutability as a function of erudition.

Witt is a former chair of the Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group. I offer him warm congratulations on behalf of all of our 116 registered members -- and I predict that he will treat us to a celebratory round of drinks in Boston!

I have asked Witt to share with me his plans and priorities for the new Center. Please watch this blog for what I hope will be a scoop.


barbara i said...

Len-It is great to see your efforts and willingness to innovate get rewarded. Congratulations.

Leonard said...

Hi Nikhil and Barbara:

Thanks for the kind words. The announcement was made yesterday before 300 people at SoCon09, our annual Social Media, Social Networking conference at Kennesaw State University.

For me a was a great day. Now it is time to get down to the Center for Sustainable Journalism work of ensuring that we have high quality journalism in the future. I know it will happen because we have such great folks here at the CCJIG and around the world working hard to make it happen.