Chico State, MediaNews Group Enter into Newsroom Diversity Partnership

California State University, Chico has entered into an unprecedented partnership with newspaper giant MediaNews Group to enroll and train journalism students from historically underrepresented populations.

CSU, Chico will receive $59,000 from MediaNews Group over four years to help students from diverse ethnic backgrounds pursue a career in journalism. The MediaNews Group Journalism and Diversity Partnership will support outreach visits to high schools and scholarships as well as internships at MediaNews Group newspapers and mentoring by professional journalists.

"We've long recognized the need for our newsrooms to reflect our communities," said Dean Singleton, MediaNews Group's chief executive officer. "Our industry needs to attract more talented young black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian students to the profession. We're pleased to work with Chico State to help the University offer scholarship and internship possibilities within our company. We own newspapers in some very diverse areas, so we want to do whatever we can to help attract young people of color to newspapers."

"We're excited by this unique partnership with MediaNews Group that not only benefits our students but will create more opportunities in journalism for diverse voices to be heard," said Paul Zingg, president of CSU, Chico. "We thank MediaNews for their interest in this work and desire to partner with Chico State. It can only strengthen what is already one of our premier programs."

The CSU, Chico Department of Journalism has one of the top news-editorial programs in the country. The newspaper produced by journalism students, The Orion, is a nine-time winner of the National Pacemaker award for general excellence, considered by many to be the top prize in college journalism, and was inducted into the Associated Press Hall of Fame in 2005 for its record of achievement. The California Newspaper Publishers Association has named The Orion the state's best university newspaper a record eight times over the past 12 years.

MediaNews Group is the fourth largest newspaper company in the U.S., with 54 daily newspapers in 12 states. Thirty-three of the daily newspapers are located in California, including the Chico-based Enterprise Record.

Dave Waddell, faculty adviser to the Orion, said he is not aware of another such corporate-university partnership to increase diversity in newsrooms. "This is an exceptional agreement, a big boost for minority students interested in journalism. That a corporation like MediaNews Group would join us in this gives our program even more credibility."

Waddell said newsrooms struggle with diversity across the U.S. He said a Knight Foundation study of newspapers from 1999-2005 found only 13 percent had staffs that reflected the level of diversity of their communities. "There is no question diversity is a must, and a huge benefit, for the media. The Orion staff has seen in clear terms how minority editors and reporters have had story ideas others didn't. To cover your community well, you must have varied perspectives and concerns."

Beginning this fall, high school and community college transfer students can apply for five $1,000 journalism scholarships for entrance into CSU, Chico in fall 2007. Current journalism students can apply for five $1,000 internship scholarships for summer '07.

To recruit new diverse students, Waddell will take time out from his teaching to travel to high schools and community colleges this year. He spent the spring '06 term on sabbatical laying the groundwork for the recruiting by visiting 37 schools in California and talking to student and teachers about journalism. "It was an invigorating experience to see the excitement they have for journalism. There are definitely some schools with great teaching and great journalism. I want to focus on them and build relationships."

David Little, editor of the Enterprise Record, said the partnership was recently discussed at a meeting of all MediaNews Group editors. "They were all very excited," he said. "We are looking forward to making this work. We want people in the state and beyond to learn about this opportunity to work with a good university and journalism program and a good network of newspapers. We need a program like this in our profession, and I'm glad it's coming to Chico State."

Little said the final aspect of the partnership - coaching journalism students - will involve an editor, reporter or photojournalist from a MediaNews Group paper coming to CSU, Chico for several days each spring. He said among the likely visiting professionals are Don Flores, editor of the El Paso Times, and Denver Post editor Greg Moore, one of the highest-ranking African American journalists in the U.S. The journalists will critique the Orion, work with journalism students in classes and take part in forums or other special journalism events.