The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism has announced its call for entries into the 2024 Student Innovation Competition. Entries will be accepted until Oct. 16 and are open to students of all disciplines at any college or university in the United States.
The competition challenges teams of 1-4 students to create something — an app, game, event, tool or something else entirely — of practical value for community newsrooms. The winning team will receive a grand prize of $10,000, while the second and third place teams will come away with $2,500 and $1,000, respectively.
“This year’s challenge asks students to think about how they can help newsrooms measure the impact of their coverage on their community,” said Kat Duncan, director of innovation at RJI. “Newsrooms want to see the changes they are making in people’s lives — it’s a big topic that the industry is trying to tackle right now, so I’m looking forward to seeing students’ ideas implemented.”
Teams selected as finalists will present their work to a panel of expert judges in March 2024. This year’s judges are:
- Nahima Ahmed, manager of impact strategy at Science Friday.
- Madison Karas, product manager at the Baltimore Banner
- Ryan Sorrell, founder and executive editor of the Kansas City Defender
The panel reflects expertise across local journalism and audience engagement, echoing the competition’s priorities.
“Community-centered journalism is one of the most trusted forms of news in the country because it is deeply engaged with the people it serves,” said Randy Picht, executive director of RJI. “This year’s competition is about expanding that engagement by helping news organizations see the specific ways their work is making a difference — and maybe some ways it isn’t.”
But the competition is not only an opportunity to build real industry solutions on a prominent stage; it can also serve as an important launching point for student winners. 2022’s winner, Dana Cassidy of the University of Florida, went on to an internship at the Washington Post that ultimately became a full-time job at the newspaper, while last year’s winning team — which created accessible, bilingual news content for the Latino community in mid-Missouri — is looking to reinvest its winnings back into their project to ensure its growth long after the end of the competition.
Lauren Hubbard, a member of last year’s team who graduated from the School of Journalism in May, said it’s too early to talk specifics, but that efforts are underway to expand the program beyond its existing partnership with the Missouri Independent, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to investigative reporting on the Missouri state government and politics.
For Hubbard, the challenge was also a milestone in developing her confidence in the skills she had built and refined as a journalism student.
“That whole experience where you are trying something that’s new and maybe uncomfortable and nerve-wracking — now in hindsight, I feel like I can do it all over again ten times over, because I know I can get through it,” Hubbard said. “I learned a lot, and I think I’m a better journalist and editor because of the experience.”