Medill Journalism School Targets Computer Specialists for Scholarships

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Computer programmers and Web developers have an opportunity to win full scholarships leading to a master's degree in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. One of the nation's premier journalism schools, Medill will offer full and partial Knight News Challenge Scholarships to computer and Web specialists interested in applying their technology skills to journalism and media. Adrian Holovaty -- a journalism graduate who taught himself computer programming and now works as editor of editorial innovations at WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive -- said he expects Medill graduates with the combination of computer skills and journalism education will be in high demand by media and news companies. Available as early as Fall 2007, the scholarships are made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Finding creative ways to marry journalism and technology will be essential to the future of journalism and media companies.

Computer programmers and Web developers have an opportunity to win full scholarships leading to a master's degree in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, thanks to a grant announced Wednesday (May 23) by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight News Challenge Scholarships -- available for students enrolling in Medill as early as September 2007 -- are made possible by a three-year, $639,000 Knight Foundation grant. One of the nation's premier journalism schools, Medill is among the first winners of the Knight News Challenge, awarded for innovative ideas using digital news or information to build community.

The idea behind the scholarships is to attract a new type of student to Medill's one-year master's degree in journalism program, according to Rich Gordon, associate professor and director of Medill's new media program. Recipients must meet Medill's normal admissions requirements.

"We believe there are programmers who want to do work that makes a difference to society," Gordon said. "We want the new scholarships to generate interest among computer specialists who might never before have considered applying their technology skills to journalism."

Adrian Holovaty exemplifies what someone with both journalism and computer science skills can accomplish. A journalism graduate who taught himself computer programming, he is editor of editorial innovations at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive -- a position especially created for him.

"Programming is becoming a bona fide sub-discipline of journalism on the level of photography, infographics and writing, and the Knight grant helps legitimize that," Holovaty said. "It will have the tangible benefit of producing skilled journalism technologists, people sorely needed by news Web sites." He expects Medill's Knight scholars 'will be in high demand' in the job market.

Holovaty is well known in media circles for his journalism innovations, including databases at the Washington Post's online site that allow visitors to search congressional votes, track events of and contributions to 2008 presidential candidates and monitor Bill Clinton's speaking fees.

He developed http://www.chicagocrime.org/ by combining crime data available online from the Chicago police department with Google's mapping service. The site -- which earned Holovaty a $10,000 Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism -- makes it easy to browse crimes by type, date, address and zip code.

"Chicagocrime.org is a powerful tool that informs citizens and allows them to advocate for themselves," said Northwestern University's Gordon. It is that kind of innovation that Medill hopes the Knight scholarships will generate.

"The skills and insights of technology developers are increasingly important to the analysis, delivery and accessibility of information needed in a democracy," Gordon said. "At the same time, the journalism skills learned at a school like Medill can produce ideas for applying technology in ways citizens will find relevant and engaging."

Students awarded Knight News Challenge Scholarships will complete the same academic program as other journalism master's degree students -- first learning reporting and storytelling skills in multiple media and then covering a news beat and creating multimedia stories in Medill's Chicago newsroom.

As part of the program, they also will apply their technology skills to journalism in an "innovation project" course. In these media management, new media publishing and magazine publishing classes, teams of students work together to create new products or solve a problem facing a media company.

"The Knight scholarships will strengthen Medill as we reshape its curriculum for the digital age," said John Lavine, dean of Northwestern's school of journalism. "Finding creative ways to marry journalism and technology will be essential to the future of journalism and media companies."

Information about Medill and its graduate degree program in journalism is available at http://www.medill.northwestern.edu/admissions/programmers.html.

For more about Knight News Challenge, which will award additional grants in 2007, visit http://www.newschallenge.org.

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