The Online News Association, the world’s largest association of online journalists, has named the New Mexico News Port, a student journalism lab in the Communication & Journalism Department at the University of New Mexico, as grand prize winner in its “Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education.”

The News Port will receive $10,000 in grand prize money from ONA.

“This is exactly the high level of work we were hoping for when launching the Challenge Fund,” said ONA President Jane McDonnell. 

New Mexico News Port started in 2014 with $35,000 in start-up funding from ONA. It was founded by UNM Professor of Practice in Journalism Michael Marcotte. He and Kate Nash Cunningham, a long time local reporter who also teaches journalism at UNM, work with students from several UNM journalism classes -- and three student interns -- to produce and share regional news via the News Port website and in collaboration with media partners.

(l to r) Intern Kenneth Ferguson with students Mariah Rimmer and Meghan McQuerry and journalism instructor Kate Nash Cunningham
(l. to r.): Intern Kenneth Furguson with students Mariah Rimmer and Meghan McQuerry and journalism instructor Kate Nash Cunningham.

“When we launched, we created something so new, it felt risky and challenging to students and partners, said Marcotte. “We’re past that now and appreciate what a great experimental ‘sandbox’ we have here to explore the future of journalism in New Mexico.”

NM News Port has been funded in its second year by a $50,000 grant from the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation.

“For us it’s just great to get that recognition for what we started,” said Nash Cunningham. “And the fact that we were able to beat out some big name journalism schools is encouraging to us.”

ONA launched the $1 million Challenge Fund in 2014. The goal is to stimulate digital news experimentation and collaboration – to “hack the curriculum” in university journalism programs as a response to rapid changes in journalism today.

In its first year, NM News Port has won 11 awards of merit, including four national awards. It partners with KUNM, KNME, the Daily Lobo and New Mexico in Depth. This semester, the NM News Port is reporting on “Creative New Mexico,” a look at the region’s startup business economy.”