Good Things Going On At The Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri

December 11, 2012 01:30

By Mike Cavender,  RTDNA Executive Director
Some of what I try to do in this column is let you know about resources and tools that can make your jobs easier and more effective.  That’s the case with the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.  

Here are a few reasons why:
RJI  ( was launched in 2004 with a $31-million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.  The goal was to provide a place which would engage media professionals, scholars and others to help them develop programs to strengthen journalism and, in the process, strengthen democracy.
Sounds pretty lofty—right?   But RJI has succeeded in translating those goals into creating and testing new technologies and, in the words of its website, “new thinking” about ways to fulfill the promise of improving journalism.  
Now, fresh with a permanent endowment of another $30-million from the same foundation, RJI is assured of being able to continue its mission.  And that’s good for RJI and for our business.
Not long ago, I sat down in our Washington office with Randy Picht, the Institute’s Executive Director to learn more about RJI and how those of us in the electronic media might make better use of the resources it offers—resources that have largely been utilized by our print media colleagues in the past. 
Randy told me of projects they have ongoing where, for example, they are developing new types of public affairs programming for local stations—using KECT-TV, St. Louis, as a laboratory.   Or doing research (using RJI fellows) to determine audience trends in social media and how to develop effective business models for “pay walling” content on news websites. And there are other projects going on that look at the evolving usage of tablets and mobile screens for news delivery.
He hopes that more local broadcasters and web producers will explore RJI and what it has to offer—even to the point of proposing individual projects for their own news organizations.  Because it’s often those kinds of projects that can provide lessons others might learn from, as well.
The RJI website is rich in content; detailing many of the Institute’s endeavors and areas of study.   I learned much just by surfing around the site and reading the articles.    I like the Research and Experiments tabs—a lot of interesting information there. 
RJI is another example of an excellent resource available those of us in journalism and you’d do well to take a few minutes and familiarize yourself with what it has to offer.   And if you have any ideas or would like them to consider a project for your group, station or site—give Randy Picht a call or drop him an email.   He’d love to hear from you.