GW University to Revitalize Journalism Programs

$200,000 Grant Connects Experienced Journalists with

WASHINGTON — The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs has received a $200,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to fund Prime Movers, a unique program in which veteran journalists from major news organizations leave their newsrooms to spend four weeks mentoring minority high school students to revitalize student-run news media and create interest in journalism careers.

 The Knight Foundation grant will help Prime Movers sustain its partnerships in Washington, D.C., as well as develop a plan for the work in Philadelphia, a community where the foundation also serves as a local funder. 

Dorothy Gilliam, GW's director of the Prime Movers program, and former Washington Post columnist, will continue to serve as director of Prime Movers and lead the effort to expand the program into the Philadelphia area. GW journalism students also work in tandem with the professional journalists in the high school classrooms. 

"Over the past two years, Prime Movers has helped shape aspiring high school journalists in multicultural high schools and has strengthened their media programs," said Gilliam. "Students have had the opportunity to tap into the expertise of some of the best local and national news veterans in the media profession. I look forward to continuing work with the Washington, D.C., area and developing this program in Philadelphia."

Lee Huebner, director of GW's School of Media and Public Affairs, said, "All of us at the school are proud and grateful for this continuing vote of confidence from Knight Foundation. Prime Movers is a wonderful way for our students to connect with the local community as they help top D.C. journalists in their mentoring work at the high school level. The program provides an extraordinary learning opportunity for everyone involved."

Eric Newton, director of Journalism Initiatives at Knight Foundation, said, "America's high school students will not have the respect they are due as tomorrow's citizens until every school has student media.  We have worked on this one school at a time, and now it's time to start working on it one city at a time."

The 2006-2007 Prime Movers mentors are Horace Holmes and Stephen Pozniak of WJLA-TV (ABC-7), Seth Stern of Congressional Quarterly, Walter Ray Watson of National Public Radio, and Pat Wingert of Newsweek. Beginning this fall and continuing next spring, each will lend their wisdom and experience to revitalize and establish radio, television, or newspaper programs at four Washington, D.C., schools - Cardozo Senior High School, Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy/Parkside, Friendship Edison Collegiate Academy, and McKinley Technology High School. 

Over the past two years, Prime Movers received $300,000 from Knight Foundation for programs in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia high schools. Journalists who served as Prime Movers mentors were: Sam Ford, Pege Gilgannon, Suzanne Kennedy, and Dale Wright of WJLA-TV (ABC-7); Jonathan Blakley, Doug Mitchell, Shay Stevens, and David Rector of National Public Radio; Bruce Horovitz of USA Today; and Victor Blandburg of USA Today Live.  More than 900 high school students have and will take part in the Prime Movers program.

"Prime Movers enabled other professionals to come into the classroom and reinforce my lesson plans and objectives - both technical and professional - therefore giving my students a solid foundation in broadcast journalism," said J.D. DiMattio, director of television production at Ballou Senior High School in Washington, D.C.

Gilliam is the founder and former director of The Washington Post's highly successful Young Journalists Development Program, which encourages high school students to pursue careers in journalism and is in its ninth year of operation. During that time, Gilliam also had received funding from Knight Foundation to publish Reaching Generation Next, a handbook for creating partnerships between news organizations and high schools. She was named GW's School of Media and Public Affairs J.B and Maurice C. Shapiro Fellow in 2003-04.

In addition to the Knight Foundation funding, GW Prime Movers and USA Today are sponsoring partners for American Society of Newspaper Editors Partnership grants to two Virginia high schools - C.D. Hylton in Woodbridge, Va., and West Potomac in Alexandria, Va.

GW's School of Media and Public Affairs teaches how ideas and information are communicated through the media. The school combines liberal arts education with professional training, promoting a combination of theory and practice through its master's and two undergraduate degree programs. The faculty consists of award-winning journalists and internationally recognized research scholars. 

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since its creation in 1950, the foundation has invested nearly $300 million in support of journalism quality and freedom of expression.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.