A foundation launched by the founder of eBay is supporting the efforts of West Virginia University’sReed College of Media to better tell the stories of Appalachian communities and to help bridge America’s political and cultural divides.
The Democracy Fund recently awarded the College of Media $150,000 to combine and advance three of its successful programs: the Innovator-in-Residence program, currently funded by the Knight Foundation; the start-up digital publication “100 Days in Appalachia,” and the social justice reporting collaboration between the College of Media and Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.
The Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation created to help strengthen our democracy and improve our political system. With their support, the College’s digital publication, “100 Days in Appalachia,” will expand its coverage of racial and religious divides, build and engage new audiences and pursue co-publishing partnerships and opportunities for syndication.
Executive Editor for “100 Days in Appalachia” Dana Coester is one of the grantees for the award and will lead the expansion of the reporting efforts.
“One of the most important things we can do as educators and journalists is help rebuild trust in media among disengaged audiences,” said Coester. “We hope our projects will ensure that people representing the full complexity and diversity of Appalachian experience will hear their own voices and realities accurately portrayed in media.”
“100 Days in Appalachia,” is a media partnership with West Virginia Public Broadcasting and The Daily Yonder, a publication produced by the Center for Rural Strategies. One of their funded reporting projects will focus on in-depth reporting and community engagement on the mid-term elections.
In addition, the fund will help expand the successful social justice reporting project between Morgan State University School of Global Journalism & Communication and the College of Media. Associate Professor Joel Beeson will lead the effort in conjunction with Mogan State faculty, students and community reporting teams. Together, they will investigate the shared challenges and differences facing their communities such as health care disparity, criminal justice, clean water and voting rights.
“Politicization of marginalized communities from outside journalists is not unique to Appalachia,” said Beeson. “With our partners at MSU, and with support from the Democracy Fund, we have a unique opportunity to produce co-authored reporting on the sources of divides as we seek to restore trust in community media from polarized audiences.”
The Democracy Fund is part of The Omidyar Group and is funded by eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam. Senior Associate for the Public Square Program at Democracy Fund Paul Waters says the organization is excited to support the College in its pursuit of innovative journalism and stories that are “meaningful to the communities they serve.”
“Their experimentation around engaged journalism practices through their publication, ‘100 Days in Appalachia,’ and their partnership with Morgan State University on their joint social justice reporting project are both leading examples in the field,” said Waters. “As a past winner of the ONA Challenge Fund, WVU has proven their commitment to diversity and enthusiasm for finding a path forward in our changing news ecosystem.”
To learn more about the Democracy Fund, visit www.democracyfund.org.
This gift was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University, which continues through December.