photo of Scripps building in Cincinnati

The Scripps Howard Fund is investing $3 million to help student journalists learn how to cover under-reported communities while combatting misinformation and providing important journalism.

The Fund selected The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) to host the Roy Howard Community Journalism Center. USM, which plans to launch the center during the 2024-25 academic year, will receive $1 million per year for three years to create and operate the center.

The center was established in honor of Roy W. Howard, former chairman of the Scripps Howard newspaper chain. Led by a team of professional journalists and instructors, the center will help students provide reliable reporting in their community while building relationships and trust. As part of their coverage, students also will debunk false information and seek to expose the sources of misinformation for their audiences.

The Roy Howard Community Journalism Center at USM will include:

  • Experiential learning: USM will develop a pipeline of young talent for Mississippi’s newsrooms by putting university, community college and high school students to work under the professional guidance of staff, faculty and partners.
  • Local reporting: Students will create professional-level local content, with source transparency as a fundamental value. The coverage will be available across platforms that connect with an underserved population in Southeast Mississippi.
  • Trust building: The center will operate a “What is True” section, which will monitor websites and social media streams that have a track record of disseminating misinformation in the targeted region. The team will also host a “What is True” hotline for residents, a podcast and a website to help audiences to separate fact from fiction. The community will also be invited to attend “What is True” events to discuss issues related to news coverage and build media literacy.

USM will partner with five Mississippi journalism organizations: Mississippi Association of Broadcasters; Mississippi Press Association; Mississippi Public Broadcasting; Mississippi Today; and Mississippi Scholastic Press Association. The partners will contribute expertise and awareness and distribute the journalism the students produce across the state.

USM will establish the center in three locations: the main headquarters on the campus in Hattiesburg, a bureau on the Gulf Park coast campus and a bureau embedded with Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. The locations will allow students to establish geographic beats, set up subject area beats and work with partner outlets to develop local and regional stories.

The center will be part of the School of Media and Communication, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences at The University of Southern Mississippi.