UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism awarded grant for digital endeavors

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The UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism recently received a grant of $75,000 from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the foundation announced Aug. 7.

The grant money is specifically “for data reporting and visualization workshops to provide journalists with skills needed to use data as a source for reporting,” according to a press release.

The money will be supplemental funding for data visualization workshops under the Knight Digital Media Center in the journalism school — a program primarily funded by the Knight Foundation that trains mid-career journalists, according to the center’s principal investigator Paul Grabowicz. Grabowicz not only applies for the center’s grants but also teaches workshops and was involved in organizing the center.

The Oklahoma City-based Ethics and Excellence foundation, founded in 1982 by the late journalist Edith Kinney Gaylord, mostly focuses on the areas of investigative reporting, youth education, professional development and special opportunities.

The foundation’s mission is “to invest in the future of journalism by building the ethics, skills and opportunities needed to advance principled, probing news and information,” according to its website.

Along with UC Berkeley, the foundation awarded 22 other journalism organizations across the country a total of $1.84 million, including about $325,000 to other groups in California — including the Youth News Service Los Angeles Bureau, the Institute for Justice and Journalism for Immigration in the Heartland in Oakland and the Investigative Newsource in San Diego. The journalism school has received this award annually since 2004.

Grabowicz said he is grateful for the foundation’s support as the award money has been critical to the center’s success.

“I think (the Knight Digital Media Center) has been really successful,” Grabowicz said. “They have trained more than 1,000 journalists in various digital skills.”

According to Grabowicz, the award money was used to gear more toward multimedia storytelling, but with an increase in the popularity of data visualization and databases, the focus has shifted to multimedia in the last couple years.

“What we are seeing is that (data visualization) is incredibly popular with members of the public,” Grabowicz said. “Sites like the Texas Tribune … put up extensive databases, and they found that anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of their traffic is people going in and accessing the data.”

Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at the Knight Foundation, said in a recent blog post that the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation foresaw the slump in investigative reporting before others and jumped in to seed new nonprofits.

“Today should be a great day in Oklahoma with dozens (rather than a handful) of colleagues, watching the folks who used to be new, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism, being the Big Dogs,” Newton said in his blog.

According to Grabowicz, digital journalism is popular because people can customize their experience to data that is personally relevant instead of having a journalist tell the reader a story about the data, while the journalist can add context and meaning to the data.

“It’s a way of getting people engaged and then giving them an avenue into reading our stories or watching our videos rather than ‘here’s the story, take it or leave it,’” Grabowicz said. “The data realm of journalism taps into everything — census, crime, patient, immigration, and election data — especially as modern times makes this type of data more readily accessible to the public.”

For Grabowicz, grants like these are part of the public service mission of UC Berkeley.

“As a school we are here not just to educate our students, although that’s our core purpose, but also (we are here) to serve the public,” he said.