Reality TV Pioneer and Mizzou Alum Funds New Documentary Film Program

The following story was published on the Missouri School of Journalism’s website on February 11, 2014. The article takes a look inside the new documentary journalism program at the Missouri School of Journalism which was made possible by J-School alum Jonathan Murray’s generous $6.7 million gift. 

The University of Missouri  announced a gift of $6.7 million from Jonathan Murray, an Emmy Award-winning MU alumnus and chairman of Bunim/Murray Productions, to create a documentary journalism program in the Missouri School of Journalism. The gift creates one of the largest programs in documentary journalism. The goal is to provide innovative teaching, professional outreach and research programs that will attract the most talented students, faculty and professionals from around the world.

“Mr. Murray’s gift makes it possible for the School of Journalism to launch an exciting new program in documentary journalism, a field with growing audiences and, thanks to the Internet and other new technologies, infinite potential for reaching those audiences,” said Dean Mills, dean of the Missouri School of Journalism. “It will give us the chance to marry the innovative approaches of documentary storytelling and presentation with the strong tradition of accuracy and fact-finding that has always been a hallmark of the School of Journalism.”

Credited with inventing the modern-day reality television genre, Murray has created and served as executive producer for some of the industry’s most innovative, unscripted entertainment television programs, beginning with The Real World in 1992, which, now in its 29th season, has become the longest-running program on MTV.

“It’s an honor for me to give back to the University of Missouri, an institution that helped build my journalistic foundation, upon which I shaped my career in news, documentaries and television before creating Bunim/Murray Productions,” Murray said. “The establishment of this new documentary journalism program is my way of helping to ensure that we’ve prepared the media and entertainment industry’s future documentary film makers to do great work, a goal that I share with MU.”

The new program, established in response to the increasing demand for video content across multiple media platforms, will offer bachelor of journalism and master of arts degrees and fund research that advances the field of documentary journalism. It will feature three new faculty positions and will engage visiting professionals from the documentary journalism community around the world. The bachelor’s degree program will be first offered in the Fall 2015 semester. The start date for the master’s degree is still under discussion, but could also begin as early as the Fall 2015 semester. Coursework for the degree will focus on the history, business models, advocacy and advanced production of documentary journalism.

The gift also will support an annual summer workshop designed to further advance documentary journalism for students and professionals. In keeping with the “Missouri Method” of learning by doing, students will get hands-on experience with documentary projects and assignments.

“Mr. Murray’s gift creates a unique opportunity that adds to a remarkable curriculum that has made the MU School of Journalism the best in the world,” MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said. “It also complements community efforts such as the True/False Film Festival, making Columbia, Mo., a true force in documentary storytelling.”

For more on Murray and his outstanding career read the rest of the story here.

Feature image by Rob Hill

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