The Kansas University journalism program now has a place to practice the multimedia techniques it has preached for the better part of a decade.
More than 40 faculty, students and visiting journalists gathered Friday to dedicate the Stan and Madeline Stauffer Multimedia Newsroom in the Dole Human Development Center, 1000 Sunnyside Ave.
Equipped with high-tech gadgetry for radio, television and Internet production, the newsroom will serve as the center for the school's "converged" media operations.
The school began using convergence -- a management strategy in which a single newsroom produces content for several media outlets -- as the guiding principle for its curriculum in 1997.
"We have been talking about convergence for a long time, but we really haven't been able to effectively show people before," said interim journalism dean Ann Brill. "This is a place where we can say, 'This is where it is happening.' This is our laboratory."
Starting this semester, KU journalism students working for the school's television station, radio station and Web site have been conducting the majority of their operations from the facility. The school newspaper, the University Daily Kansan, has maintained its office in Stauffer-Flint Hall, 1435 Jayhawk Blvd.
The newsroom was financed primarily by a $200,000 donation from Stan and Madeline Stauffer of Topeka. The Stauffer family has provided significant financial support to KU's journalism program for many years, and the school's main building, Stauffer-Flint Hall, was named in part after Stan's father, Oscar Stauffer. Stan graduated from the school in 1942.
"We were pleased and gratified to be a part of this process," Stan Stauffer said. "I believe the multimedia newsroom is the future of journalism. We consider ourselves very fortunate to help the cause."
Professor Rick Musser, who oversaw construction of the newsroom this summer and now manages the facility, said the multimedia center was the biggest thing to happen to the journalism school in two decades. It provides the venue to demonstrate multimedia reporting techniques that the school has been teaching for several years, he said.
"We were on the dock, we were on board, we were all packed and ready to go," Musser said. "And now the ship has sailed."
While administrators have hailed construction of the newsroom as a major step for the journalism school, the facility is relatively modest when compared with newsrooms that recently have been completed or are being planned at other universities.
Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., received a $4 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to build its converged newsroom, completed in 2003. And $1.8 million of the $31 million grant given to the University of Missouri's journalism school by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in February has been set aside to fund electronics and furnishings for high-tech facilities.
Still, KU's journalism students are excited about the opportunities the new facility will provide.
Natalie Slanzer, a St. Louis senior, said she thought the multimedia newsroom would bolster the school's reputation and provide students with marketable skills.
"To be able to work in this type of environment with the technology we have available will definitely help me when I go to look for a job," she said.