July 26, 2000

Ford Foundation Awards Grants To Columbia Journalism School's Project On Race & Ethnicity

By Kim Brockway

The Ford Foundation has awarded a total of $1 million in grants to support the Workshops on Journalism, Race and Ethnicity, created and hosted for the past two years by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. The workshops -- described by a newsroom manager who attended this summer's session as "stimulating, intense and provocative" -- identify excellent coverage of race and ethnicity and bring together journalists from across the country to improve coverage of these issues.

A grant of $660,000 from the Foundation will support the workshops for three years, beginning July 1, 2000, and follows a two-year grant of $330,000 and an initial planning grant of $25,000.

This summer, the project identified fourteen examples of excellent newspaper and television coverage; a dozen examples were cited last year. This year's honorees included Angelo Henderson, for his stories on race in The Wall Street Journal; Gabriel Escobar and his pieces about Latinos in The Washington Post, and a CBS News' "60 Minutes" segment about education breakthroughs in minority neighborhoods in the Bronx and Houston. A three-day workshop held at Columbia in June focused on the honored coverage, with the goal of increasing other journalists' commitment to better coverage of the subject. Many of those men and women who produced the work attended, along with a group of more than twenty newspaper editors and TV news managers from across the country who shape the journalistic mission, set newsroom tone and agendas, allocate resources and deploy staffs.

Additional participants noted that this year's workshop went beyond problems to look at ways to find solutions, and appreciated the "vibrant, honest and deeply textured dialogue." Sig Gissler, associate professor and the workshop's director, is delighted that the Ford Foundation finds the project as valuable as its participants do. "Our goal is change," said Gissler. "By showcasing high quality work in candid, shirtsleeves sessions we think we are fostering better performance in this vital area of journalism."

Gissler will turn over the directorship this fall to Arlene Morgan, an assistant managing editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, who is joining the Columbia Journalism School as special assistant to the dean. A full-time professor, Gissler will remain active in an advisory role.