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Otis L. Sanford Journalist Incubator

Raised toward our $50,000 Goal
124 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on August 13, at 11:59 PM CDT
Project Owners

Please help us educate the next generation of journalists in Memphis

The Institute for Public Service Reporting is a teaching institute in the University of Memphis’s Department of Journalism and Strategic Media. Our professionally staffed newsroom also serves as Memphis’s leading nonprofit news organization specializing in in-depth investigative and explanatory journalism.  

 We have a dual mission:  As journalists, we explore and explain vital issues facing Greater Memphis and the Mid-South. As teachers, we help mentor the next generation of journalists.  

 We’re raising $50,000 in seed money to launch our Otis L. Sanford Journalist Incubator to inspire and educate students from middle school to graduate school to become professional journalists. Students will study under some of the country's most experienced journalists.

The Journalist Incubator includes: 

·      A new outreach to middle and high school students. Starting this fall, our professional journalists will be advising, mentoring and teaching students taking journalism courses at University Middle School and University High School, both on the UofM campus.

·      A planned open-source investigative reporting program to launch in the fall of 2024. We intend to help students and journalists with all levels of experience learn how to find, explore and report on information on the Internet, social media, and public databases and in books and periodicals.

·      Civil Wrongs. Our widely acclaimed seasonal podcast exploring racial injustice now includes an academic course that launched this semester. Thirteen UofM students are helping produce a four-part podcast on the Memphis Massacre that will air later this month.

·      Our award-winning intern program. Launched in 2020, this immersive year-long program pays UofM students $15 an hour (about $8,200 over the course of an academic year) and gives them a chance to work alongside our professional journalists.

Your donation will help us jumpstart our fundraising efforts for the Journalist Incubator and develop the careers of the next generation of journalists in Memphis.

Our Inspiration: Otis L. Sanford

Otis L. Sanford chairs the advisory board of the Institute for Public Service Reporting and holds the Hardin Chair of Excellence in Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Memphis. With a long-time career in print and broadcast, he is one of the most respected and recognized journalists in Memphis.

He began his professional career in 1975 in Jackson, Mississippi, at The Clarion-Ledger as an entertainment and feature writer. He later covered police and local government at The Clarion-Ledger.

 In 1977 he joined The Commercial Appeal as a general assignment reporter. In August 1977 he covered the death of Elvis Presley. Later at The Commercial Appeal he covered the federal court, state courts, county government and politics before being promoted to assistant metro editor in 1986.  

 In 1987 Sanford joined The Pittsburgh Press as an assistant city editor where he directed that newspaper's local, state and national political coverage. In 1992 he joined the Detroit Free Press as a deputy city editor in charge of coordinating the paper's daily local news coverage.

In 1994 Sanford returned to The Commercial Appeal as deputy managing editor.  In 1997 he pioneered The Teen Appeal high school newspaper, and in 2000 he launched The DeSoto Appeal daily edition. In 2002 Sanford was promoted to managing editor, and in 2007 he was named editor for opinion and editorials. In that role, he started writing a weekly column for the Sunday Viewpoint section. He also launched the citizen editorial board to give readers an opportunity to help shape the newspaper's editorial voice. In 2008 he served as chairman of the Mid-America Press Institute, and in 2010 Sanford was elected president of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association.

In January 2011 Sanford joined the University of Memphis journalism faculty, retiring at the end of the spring semester in 2023. He taught media writing, mass media, diversity and society, survey of mass communication and reporting. He continues to write a political column twice a month for The Daily Memphian and appear weekly on television at ABC24 Memphis and on public radio at WKNO-FM.



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