Point Park University launches $20K mission to ease losses in small-town journalism | TribLIVE.com

Point Park University launches $20K mission to ease losses in small-town journalism

Deb Erdley

Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation in Pittsburgh is launching a $20,000 fellowship designed to tackle the growing dearth of investigative journalism in communities that no longer host a daily newspaper, officials announced Wednesday.

A three-year grant from the Allegheny Foundation underwrote the creation of the Annual Doris O’Donnell Innovations in Investigative Reporting, said Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation.

“We’re doing a national search, looking for innovative ideas for an investigative news project in a community that has either lost its newspaper altogether or is being ignored,” said Conte, a former Tribune-Review investigative reporter.

In a statement, he said officials hope it will underscore the importance of local news.

“For many communities throughout the country, newspapers are the best — and sometimes only — source for critical local news. The death of a newspaper in one of these places leaves an informational black hole that can be devastating. These gaps are expanding across America and right here in Western Pennsylvania as media outlets are closing, shrinking coverage areas and laying off or buying out experienced journalists,” he said.

Journalists and media outlets can apply online through June 30. A panel of five journalists, who have produced a body of distinguished work in innovative investigative journalism, will judge the applications.

The fellowship winner will have six months to produce and publish or broadcast the final story or series of stories.

Doris O’Donnell, the namesake of the award, was a pioneering journalist who began her 50-year career during World War II for the Cleveland News. She joined the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1959, covering the Sam Sheppard murder trial that inspired “The Fugitive.” She traveled to Dallas for the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination and to the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.

O’Donnell worked at the Tribune-Review for 15 years beginning in 1973 before returning to Cleveland.

Sue McFarland, executive managing editor of the Tribune-Review who edited O’Donnell’s work, recalled her as a “trailblazer” who fought hard to cover major news stories.

Matt Groll, chairman of the Allegheny Foundation, said foundation trustees were happy to partner on what they consider a unique fellowship.

Fellowship finalists and the winner will be announced in September.

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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