MU brainstorms uses for Blair’s $1 million estate gift

“Hopefully it’ll trigger other journalism schools and communication programs to look at this as an area of important study,” Blair said.

Missouri alumni Timothy Blair recently donated $1 million to the journalism school. The money is intended to support education and research about how journalists cover LGBT issues.

Blair said he spent the past two to three years discussing potential donation ideas with MU development.

“I was looking at items of interest that I felt a certain passion about,” he said. “As we narrowed it down, the issue of the connection between democracy and journalism became something that I was particularly interested in.”

Blair said that he left the donation relatively open-ended in terms of how it is to be spent so as to not limit the ideas of those passionate about the issue.

The donation is an estate gift, which means it will not be available for use until Blair’s death. It will presumably be awhile before administrators can use the money, given that Blair is 63. However, administrators have already begun brainstorming possible uses for it.

"The LGBTQ community isn't often incorporated into the daily fabric of local news,” said T.J. Thomson, president of the MU chapter of NLGJA. “Many media outlets use wire services and only localize their coverage when an LGBTQ issue seeps into the national consciousness. As such, Blair's generosity could foster and support proportionate and sustained local LGBT coverage through grants, contests and scholarships.”

Currently, journalism students are required to take a cross-cultural journalism class in which they learn about LGBT issues among other things. The one of the focuses of the class is realizing that the LGBT community is a part of the greater community, and is impacted by many of the same issues as everyone else.

“It’s about not looking at them as the ‘other’ or different from everyone else in society,” cross-cultural professor Earnest Perry said. “They are a part of the overall picture in which the journalism is trying to present.”

Although these issues are currently being discussed, Perry thinks this money could lead to a deeper exploration. He believes the money will be best spent on developing the curriculum and finding faculty with expertise in handling LGBT issues in journalism.

“The gift is meant to help us financially in doing a better job of teaching students how to cover communities that are different from those that they come from.” Perry said. “When you’re out there as a journalist you want to tell those stories from the perspective of the people you're talking to, not the story that’s stereotypical.”

However the money is used, Blair hopes it will inspire other schools to follow suit.

“Hopefully it’ll trigger other journalism schools and communication programs to look at this as an area of important study,” Blair said.

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