Gift will support conferences, research on helping small, local newspapers
November 19th, 2014
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Walter B. Potter Jr., a resident of Falls Church, Va., has committed $1 million to the University of Missouri School of Journalism to supplement the Walter B. Potter Fund for Innovation in Local Journalism, established in 2010. The endowment supports teaching and research centered on journalism that serves small communities, such as towns in rural areas or individual neighborhoods in larger urban areas. Potter says his gift is in honor of his late father, Walter Sr., and is motivated by his career as a journalist as well as his positive experiences as a graduate student at MU.
“The newspaper industry has provided three generations of my family with satisfying and rewarding lives,” Potter said. “I just wanted to give back to the profession from which we have received so much. Also, my experience attending the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri was the major turning point in my newspaper career. Much of whatever success I’ve enjoyed has come thanks to what I learned and the people I met at the best journalism school in the world.”
Potter’s endowment established the Walter B. Potter, Sr. Conference, the first of which took place in 2011, and the next will take place Nov. 20-21, 2014 at the MU Reynolds Journalism Institute. These conferences bring together community journalists from around the country to share information about new technologies as well as strategies for the changing economic climate for all local journalists. Potter hopes this gift will further cement MU and Potter Fund efforts like the conferences as the “go to” destination for community publishers in moving from traditional media to the Internet and other future technologies.
“Community news organizations are crucial to democracy at the local level,” said Dean Mills, dean of the MU School of Journalism. “They give citizens the news and information they need to build and maintain strong communities. This generous gift from Walt 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.”
“Mr. Potter’s gift will further advance the MU School of Journalism as the worldwide leader in journalism teaching, research and innovation,” MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said. “Mr. Potter has found a meaningful way to advance his passion for community journalism, and the university community thanks him for his generosity and for supporting this industry that is vital to our democracy.”
“Through Walt Potter’s generosity in establishing the Potter Conferences, community newspaper publishers and staff members are given an opportunity to swap success stories that have brought new revenue to their operations,” said Doug Crews, executive director of the Missouri Press Association. “Revenue generation is the key to providing strong newspapers in individual markets and we thank Walt for creating this forum to explore innovative ideas that ultimately can assist many newspapers.”
Potter’s family has been involved in the newspaper business for decades. Walter Sr. owned and operated six community newspapers and was president of the Virginia Press Association in 1959 and the National Newspaper Association in 1966. Potter’s mother, Alice Kay, was an award-winning reporter and photographer for the Culpeper (Va.) Star-Exponent and active in Virginia Press Women Inc. Walter Jr. worked on his father’s flagship paper in Culpeper, starting at age 13, in jobs ranging from paper boy to advertising salesman to reporter and copy editor. He worked as a police reporter for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. After earning a master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Potter Jr. was a reporter for the Nashville Banner, reporter and editor for the Kansas City Times, a reporter for Presstime, which was the journal of the Newspaper Association of America, and was editor and business manager of his father and grandfather’s Emporia, Va. newspaper, The Independent-Messenger.