School of Journalism announces $1 million donation

The donation from Walter B. Potter, Jr. will fund a conference on community journalism.

The Missouri School of Journalism announced Wednesday a $1 million donation from Walter B. Potter Jr. to benefit benefit innovation in community journalism.

The donation will fund the the Walter B. Potter Sr. Conference, which brings together community journalists from around the country to discuss innovations in technology and strategies for the changing economic climate. The first conference of its kind was in 2011, and the next will take place Nov. 20-21 at the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

“It’s an honor to be able to create and support the Potter Fund and, through it, the best journalism school in the world,” Potter Jr. said.

Jounrlaism school Dean Dean Mills said the conference will support community organizations as they transition from print to digital media.

“Community news organizations are crucial to democracy at the local level,” Mills said in a news release. “They give citizens the news and information they need to build and maintain strong communities. This generous gift from Potter will strengthen those organizations through the generations by helping them to use the latest technologies and approaches to provide rigorous and useful journalism to their audiences.”

Potter Jr. started as a paperboy for the Culpeper Star-Exponent, which his father owned. He went on to earn a master’s degree in journalism from MU and worked for several community newspapers.

Potter Jr. said his time at MU was a turning point in his life and referred to the connections he made as the highlight of his time, some of whom were present at the announcement of the donation.

“My career took a sharp turn upward,” he said. “The people I met at Mizzou and ideas I acquired enriched my life to the present day. It’s natural to want to give back when you’ve received so much.”

Potter Jr. named the conference after his late father, who owned and operated six community newspapers.

“He was the prototypical community publisher,” he said. “He was the example of what a small-town publisher should be.”

Potter Jr. said he plans to visit various small-town newspaper publishers in Missouri over a six-week period to discover what they need to cope with new technology, as well as potentially teaching seminars at MU.

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said Potter Jr.’s donation is the second announced for the journalism school this fall, following a gift of $10 million from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

“These (donations) represent ways for the school to continually do things that are new and exciting and to continue to evolve to meet the dynamic world of journalism,” Loftin said. “We know the impact Mizzou has worldwide in journalism.”

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