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Merrill College

Merrill College’s Jerry Zremski Named UVM Center for Community News Faculty Champion

New program seeks to address the crisis facing local news by partnering news outlets with colleges and recognizing faculty leaders building innovative programs across the U.S.

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Center for Community News at the University of Vermont on Monday launched a national initiative to support the critical role of local news media around the country and aid colleges in their efforts to help solve the crisis facing local news.

Jerry ZremskiThe Center for Community News documents university-led student reporting programs where student stories show up outside of the university providing important content to struggling local news outlets and giving students essential applied learning experiences.

The center announced a new program to fund faculty champions at 31 universities and colleges — an investment in faculty creating and growing local news partnerships.

Jerry Zremski, who leads the Local News Network at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, was named a faculty champion.

Zremski was selected for his proposal to explore development of a “Maryland Commons,” a statewide effort to collect, store and standardize state data. The plan is to begin this effort with the Local News Network’s spring project, in which approximately 40 Merrill College students will analyze school district spending statewide.

“Local newsrooms in Maryland and nationwide are strapped for resources, but journalism schools like Merrill College can help by putting student journalists to work doing things that small newsrooms can’t – like standardizing and finding stories in state data,” Zremski said. “I’m hoping our school district spending project will be the first of many like it.”

“CCN is pleased to recognize Jerry Zremski for his outstanding work leading innovative and creative solutions that engage their students in addressing the local news crisis," said Richard Watts, director of the Center for Community News. "We are pleased to name Jerry as a faculty champion — a faculty leader in developing hands-on learning experiences for their students that also provide much needed local stories, stories that no one else is telling.”

The 31 champions come from 23 different states. Twelve of the champions work at Minority Serving Institutions, where student populations are majority non-white including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

Why It Matters

The crisis in local news has profound implications for the function of our democracy. Since 2004, the United States has lost more than 2,100 newspapers, according to a report from the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Today, two thirds of U.S. counties have just one daily newspaper and more than 200 have no local newspaper at all.

Local news is more than just a trusted source of critical information; it’s an essential ingredient in a healthy democracy. Research suggests that communities with dedicated news organizations report higher levels of civic ties and community engagement; lower levels of political polarization; more transparent and competitive elections; and better economic outcomes for residents.

“This is a time to engage our students and colleges in doing local reporting,” said Watts, a senior lecturer in the College of Arts & Sciences and the founder of the Community News Service at UVM. “Universities have a responsibility to lead and students want to do real things."

About CCN

The Center for Community News at UVM is helping to connect student journalists at every stage of life with local news organizations to help build a world in which every community has access to reliable information by and for the people who live there. The center is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and UVM College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) donors.


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