COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- A University of Missouri journalism think tank has received a $30.1 million endowment — one of the largest gifts in school history — to continue its research into the digital future of news, university leaders announced Thursday.
The donation to the Reynolds Journalism Institute trails only the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation's 2004 contribution of $31 million to create the digital research center.
For an industry that's seen its traditional economic model collapse, the gift was a cause for celebration at the Missouri journalism school, the nation's oldest.
"We believe in journalism," foundation president Steven Anderson said. "It's a changing industry. The journalism institute is in exactly the right place to be out front of innovations and changes in the industry. This is an investment to help shape its future."
The new donation establishes a permanent endowment to cover the institute's ongoing operating expenses and follows a $15 million gift to Reynolds Journalism Institute in 2009 for operating expenses. The Reynolds moniker also graces the MU campus alumni center thanks to a $9.5 million donation from the late media mogul's fortune two decades ago.
That gift has made the Reynolds name a common one on campuses across the country, including the University of Arkansas' football stadium, the journalism school at the University of Nevada in Reno and several performing arts centers at schools in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Donald Worthington Reynolds was a 1927 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism whose early newspaper purchases grew into the Donrey Media Group. The company's properties included the Las Vegas Review-Journal in the city where the Reynolds Foundation is now based. Reynolds died in 1993.
Randy Picht, executive director of the Reynolds Journalism Institute, said the contribution will allow the institute to further extend its reach beyond academia into industry partnerships.
The American Society of News Editors recently relocated to Columbia from Washington, D.C., in hopes of working more closely with the research center, Picht said. And in April, Microsoft opened a development lab on campus in hopes of creating new apps for its tablet-friendly Windows 8 operating system.
"It solidifies for perpetuity what we can do," he said.
Chancellor Brady Deaton said he expects the journalism center to benefit not just the news industry but also the people of Missouri, noting the center's work with students and experts in business, computer science and other disciplines.
"The impact goes far beyond this building," he said. "The ultimate beneficiaries are citizens. And those citizens will be served by the new journalism approaches invented here at RJI."
Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at http://twitter.com/azagier