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Harnisch Foundation gives $1.5 million to establish Center for Sustainable Journalism at KSU

Kennesaw State University has received a $1.5 million gift from the Harnisch Foundation to establish a Center for Sustainable Journalism to research and develop innovative ways to produce and distribute news.

The center will be housed within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and overseen by Leonard Witt, Kennesaw State’s Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication, eminent scholar and associate professor. Witt is a pioneer in developing community-supported journalism models and exploring the potential of online social networks to disseminate news.

Witt's work caught the attention of Ruth Ann Harnisch, president of the Harnisch Foundation, which supports and funds projects and programs that promote sustainable social change in philanthropy, coaching and journalism. The Foundation initially provided more than $60,000 to support Witt's launch of a Minnesota-based community-supported journalism project.

"The continuing support we are receiving from the Harnisch Foundation enables KSU to further support the important nationally recognized research being conducted by Leonard Witt," said KSU President Daniel S. Papp. "This major gift will go a long way in establishing KSU’s prominence in the emerging field of news dissemination through social networks."

The current award, which will be spread over five years, will help underwrite applied research‚ build collaborations and advance innovative journalism projects regionally and around the country. The center will research and test a continuing stream of innovative journalism projects and nurture the best of them into self-sustaining entities.

"We are living in an era when old journalism models are failing, newspapers are faltering and experienced journalists are losing their jobs," Witt said. "This solution-oriented funding comes at a critical time, and with it, we can start to build new models that will ensure journalism continues to play its vital role in our democracy."

Witt has been sharing his ideas about journalism innovation on his blog (PJNet.org) for six years.

"Technology has changed everything for everyone in every way," said Ruth Ann Harnisch. "Len Witt understands how that affects the flow of information. I am investing in his leadership in the field because he's willing to engage in bold experiments that could help shape the future of journalism."

Witt said the Harnisch's gift addresses a mutual concern for the future of traditional journalism.

"This gift is a tribute to the belief that Kennesaw State is at the forefront of helping reinvent journalism in this era when old business models are crumbling and new ones need to be tested and advanced," he said. "It is also a tribute to Bill and Ruth Ann Harnisch, who understand the need to act now to ensure that we have high quality journalism in the future."

Click here for more information on the Harnich Foundation award to KSU and learn more about Ruth Ann Harnisch.


Posted: February 9, 2009