Howard University’s Center for Journalism & Democracy is providing support to student newsrooms through its inaugural Newsroom Innovation Challenge. Nearly $200,000 in additional funding was awarded to ten HBCU newsrooms.

The programs will improve newsroom technology, business operations, audience engagement and journalism in various campus newsrooms. The packages, ranging from $4,000 to $29,000, will include a one-time technology award. The newsrooms will also receive funding for two years to pay specific newsroom staff and hire contributing writers. The staff writers will be eligible to apply for funding for a fifth year.

According to The Guardian, funds will be distributed to several educational institutions and grantees, including The Hilltop and HU News Service, which are both Howard University programs. Additionally, Morgan State University, the University of the District of Columbia, Morehouse College, Florida A&M University, North Carolina A&T University, North Carolina Central University, Savannah State University and Texas Southern University will also be recipients of the funds.

The program was initially open only to the nine HBCU cohort schools at the Center for Journalism and Democracy. Grant recipients were notified in late April. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the founder of the Center for Journalism and Democracy and the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard University, said the newsroom initiatives will level the playing field in journalism.

“HBCU student newsrooms brim with talent but often lack the resources needed to give students access to the cutting-edge technology and operational support that so many of their peers at predominately white institutions have,” Jones said in a press release. “This grant program seeks to even the playing field by upgrading student newsrooms and paying stipends for student journalists. Investments in the talent and ambitions of aspiring journalists will fundamentally transform these newsrooms.”

Milton Kent, a professor of practice and adviser to Morgan States’s student newspaper, said the support is greatly appreciated.

“I can tell you that The Spokesman has lost talented journalists because some of our students can’t afford to work in the newsroom without being paid, so this is huge,” Kent said.

Jones told The Dig that she was elated by the turnout of her vision.

“The Newsroom Innovation Challenge is part of the vision I had when I founded the Center two years ago, and I am so excited to finally see these resources headed to where they are much needed,” Jones said. “When we invest in our HBUCs, we invest in ensuring our multiracial democracy is covered by a multiracial press.”