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Journalism department receives $1.5 million grant to fund investigative chair

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The University of Illinois Department of Journalism, which has added two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists to its faculty in the past two years, has received a $1.5 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support a new tenured chair in investigative reporting.

The grant will support the department's "growing emphasis on teaching investigative and enterprise reporting," according to the Knight Foundation. The chair also will help the journalism department "become the pre-eminent journalism program for investigative and enterprise reporting in the country," said Ron Yates, the head of the UI journalism department, adding that the new chair also will "further solidify the department's long-time commitment to public affairs journalism."

The Knight Chair is the first outside endowed chair in the UI's journalism department and College of Communications. It is the second chair the department has received in the past year. Leon Dash, also a professor in Afro-American studies at the UI, was awarded a UI Swanlund Chair in February.

In addition to the two chairs, a new $500,000 professorship in business and financial reporting was awarded to the department by UI accountancy alumnus Tom Sleeman in memory of his late wife, June, a 1954 graduate of the journalism department.

A national search will begin immediately to fill the Knight Chair, Yates said.

Illinois' award was one of 25 journalism grants -- totaling more than $21 million to non-profit journalism and public affairs organizations -- the Knight Foundation approved at its September meeting. A Knight Chair also was granted to the University of California at Berkeley. Illinois and Berkeley earned the 15th and 16th Knight Chairs in the foundation's program.

"Both schools emphasized what they do best in crafting their proposals," said Del Brinkman, the foundation's director of journalism programs. "Illinois has recruited a strong faculty steeped in the intricacies of investigative journalism, and Berkeley is at the epicenter of technology. Their Knight Chairs will expand the pool of talented journalist/educators now engaged in sharing what they know with the journalists of the 21st century."

In addition to an already strong faculty, the UI journalism department has hired several high-profile journalists, two of whom have won Pulitzer Prizes.

Before joining the UI journalism department in August of 1997, Yates, a recipient of numerous awards in journalism, held a variety of positions during his career with the Chicago Tribune: senior business writer; chief Asia correspondent and Tokyo bureau chief; national editor; and metropolitan editor.

Other new faculty members:

• Dash, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for explanatory journalism, formerly with the Washington Post, joined the journalism department in the fall of 1998.

• Bill Gaines, twice a recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, became the department's first journalist-in-residence in the fall of 1999.

• Walter Harrington, formerly a staff writer for the Washington Post, and winner of numerous awards, began teaching at Illinois in 1996.

• Rick Kaplan, formerly president of CNN/USA and earlier an executive with ABC and CBS News, was named an adjunct journalism professor in early 1998, and has been teaching at the UI one week a semester since 1997. He has won numerous awards, including 37 Emmys and three George Foster Peabody Awards.