J-School introduces new documentary journalism program

Jonathan Murray, an MU graduate, gifted $6.7 million to kick off program.
Dean Mills, dean of the School of Journalism, speaks at a news conference in the Reynolds Journalism Institute on Tuesday to announce a new documentary journalism program at MU. The program was funded by a $6.7 million gift from School of Journalism graduate Jonathan Murray.

The School of Journalism announced it is adding yet another program to its curriculum: documentary journalism.

The $6.7-million grant to kick off the program was gifted from Jonathan Murray, a 1977 journalism graduate. The grant will help establish a new Documentary Journalism Center and will tentatively be housed in the Reynolds Journalism Institute, said Dean Mills, dean of the School of Journalism.

Murray is co-founder and chairman of Bunim/Murray Productions, where he has won two Emmy awards for the documentary film, “Autism: The Musical,” which he produced in 2007. He also created the reality television series, “The Real World,” which is now MTV’s longest running program at 29 years.

“Jon is simply one of those alums you would like to clone,” Mills said.

Kent Collins, radio-television faculty chairman, worked closely with Murray to make this program happen.

Collins said the shared vision would benefit not only the school, but also the citizenry of the country to create documentaries with real journalistic content.

“We had the pieces already, but this plows new ground for the (journalism) school,” Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said.

Murray has been working with the journalism school faculty on this project for the last five to six years, Collins said. The program will begin in the Fall 2015 semester and will start possibly as an interest area, Mills said.

Murray said he hopes these documentaries will benefit people and tell stories to open minds. He said he also wants the films to make their audiences think about things in a way they have not beforehand.

Collins, Mills and Murray said the program is not yet fully created, but it will be full flowing by the Fall 2015 semester.

Loftin said he is looking forward to bringing this program to the university.

“Mr. Murray’s gift creates a unique opportunity that adds to a remarkable curriculum that has made the MU School of Journalism the best in the world,” he said in a news release. “It also complements community efforts such as the True/False Film Festival, making Columbia, Mo., a true force in documentary storytelling.”

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