July 14, 2009

News-Gazette, University of Illinois J-school unveil project to report on local economic disparities

My friend Rich Martin probably doesn't want to toot his own horn, so I'll do it for him, by cross-posting one of today's items from The Rural Blog:

Champaign County, Illinois, population 171,000, "is home to a world-class university, chic new downtown lofts and more than 350 restaurants. It is also home to more than 58,600 residents – nearly one in three – who are impoverished or near poverty, according to 2007 Census Bureau data."

So report freelance writers Shelley Smithson and Pam G. Dempsey for The News-Gazette of Champaign and Urbana, in the first of a series "to engage citizens, educators and other media in an ongoing examination of poverty and its related issues in Champaign County," an editor's note says. The project director is Rich Martin of the University of Illinois School of Journalism, and journalism students will be involved. The project will include an interactive Web site "where citizens can access and contribute information about these issues," overseen by Brant Houston, the school's Knight Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting and former executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors.

"While news stories will be a significant part of this project, a major goal will be to provide access to information about the community to those citizens who seldom get that access," the editor's note says. "The project is funded by the Marajen Stevick Foundation, a News-Gazette community foundation; a matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a journalism foundation based in Miami; and contributions from the University of Illinois." (Read more)

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