(AP) The Anniston Star announced the formation of a nonprofit institute that will train journalists through the University of Alabama and eventually will own the northeast Alabama newspaper.
The institute will preserve the Star as a locally owned paper in order to advance community journalism, Publisher H. Brandt Ayers said in Sunday’s paper.
With increasing consolidation of media ownership, Ayers said, journalists everywhere need to learn how to connect with their communities, in big cities as well as small.
“One thing is, ‘community journalism’ tends to say ‘small town,'” Ayers said. “But I don’t think that is necessarily the case or should be the case. If there is any class of workers that could use a thoughtful analysis of where they stand with their community, it is in the major markets.”
The Star and three smaller newspapers comprise Consolidated Publishing Co., the Ayers family company of which Ayers is chairman.
Under the plan, the company will form the Ayers Institute, which will work with the university to establish an honors graduate program in community journalism, with classes taught at the papers.
Consolidated Publishing eventually will transfer all its stock to a nonprofit foundation that will support the newspapers, the institute, and other projects.
Culpepper Clark, dean of the University of Alabama’s College of Communication, said the institute could begin recruiting students as early as 2004. “Obviously, the university’s journalism program is well known and highly acclaimed; the Ayers name and The Anniston Star are legendary,” Clark said. “If you combine those two institutions, only good can come from it.”
The institute has a well-known predecessor in the Poynter Institute of St. Petersburg, Fla., also a journalism education foundation. It was created in 1975 by Nelson Poynter, the late publisher of the St. Petersburg Times, and he willed controlling stock in the newspaper to the nonprofit institute.
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