Poynter Receives $125,000 Grant for Sense-Making Project

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The Ford Foundation will underwrite a new Poynter Institute project focused on determining the impact of emerging news providers.

In that void lies a new power structure - a new group of information pioneers. Through the Sense-Making Project, we hope to observe and categorize those working within this new power structure to identify their values and anticipate how we can help democracy thrive in a new media landscape.

The Poynter Institute has launched a yearlong project to help the public develop skills for making sense of news in the digital era. Funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation, the Sense-Making Project will focus on the impact of new, emerging sources of news and information as the reach and capacity of professional journalism lessens. The project includes a research component, a four-day conference of industry leaders and a series of three public events to be held around the country.

"It's clear the influence of professional journalism is declining," said Kelly McBride, Poynter's ethics group leader and lead faculty for the program. "In that void lies a new power structure - a new group of information pioneers. Through the Sense-Making Project, we hope to observe and categorize those working within this new power structure to identify their values and anticipate how we can help democracy thrive in a new media landscape."

By studying the growing influence of nontraditional journalists and new sources of news, like blogs and social networks, the Sense-Making Project will attempt to answer two questions:

  •     What skills do citizens need to participate in our democracy?
  •     How will the traditional role of the Fourth Estate evolve in this new environment?

Researchers involved in the sense-making project will build case studies to be used by those working in the growing field of news and media literacy. The case studies will focus on how news travels on the Internet and how the public uses and consumes it. Poynter Online will publish findings and other developments.

"Researchers will track pieces of information as they move through the digital universe," said McBride. "We hope to identify how different types of Web sites and platforms make use of information, how audiences behave, and what values underpin all of this."

This spring, Poynter will host a Sense-Making conference at which new media leaders and innovators will join Poynter faculty to explore the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of new voices, platforms and Web sites that are gaining in their ability to influence the public. The third component of Poynter's sense-making project is a series of public events. The goal of the series is to share findings from the research and conference and begin a dialogue with citizens.

About The Poynter Institute
Founded in 1975 in St. Petersburg, Fla., The Poynter Institute (http://www.poynter.org) is one of the nation's top schools for professional journalists, future journalists and journalism teachers. Poynter offers training throughout the year in the areas of online and multimedia, leadership and management, reporting, writing and editing, TV and radio, ethics and diversity, journalism education and visual journalism. Poynter's News University (http://www.newsu.org) offers newsroom training to journalists and journalism students through interactive e-learning modules and links to other journalism education and training opportunities.

About the Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is a resource for innovative people and institutions around the world. Ford was founded to advance human welfare, and all of our work flows from this fundamental commitment. For more than 70 years, the Ford Foundation has been delivering on a promise to improve lives and create opportunity.

This grant stems from the Media Division of the Ford Foundation. An ever-growing array of media platforms - from newspapers and television to cell phones and the Internet - saturates our lives in profound ways.

Contact Information:
Kelly McBride, faculty, kmcbride (at) poynter.org

Jessica Sandler, marketing manager, jsandler (at) poynter.org

Phone: 1-888-POYNTER (1-888-769-6837)

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