Reporters may contact: Patti LaSalle
SMU Public Affairs
(214) 768-7660


Belo Contact: Skip Cass 214-977-6602

February 23, 2001


DALLAS, TX -- A $5 million gift to Southern Methodist University from The Belo Foundation will establish a partnership aimed at developing one of the leading applied journalism programs in the country.

The Belo Foundation is the philanthropic organization of Dallas-based Belo Corporation, whose extensive media ownerships include The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV.

The partnership will fund the endowment of the Belo Distinguished Chair in Journalism, to be filled by a recognized leader with outstanding academic and professional credentials who will also serve as chair of the Journalism Division in SMU's Meadows School of the Arts. The gift will also fund design, engineering and architectural planning of a digital newsroom, television studio and website. The digital facility will produce local news and feature programming for distribution by television, radio, Internet and print.

SMU President R. Gerald Turner said, "We are excited and proud to undertake this ambitious project in partnership with The Belo Foundation. With Belo's national stature, the thriving Dallas/Fort Worth area communications industry and the overall quality of SMU's academic programs, we have the opportunity to develop an applied journalism program that will prepare well-rounded leaders in the communications profession."

SMU trustee and Belo Foundation board member Ward L. Huey Jr. said, "With the enthusiastic support of President Turner, Provost Ross Murfin and Meadows School of the Arts Dean Carole Brandt, the timing is ideal to implement a strategic program of applied journalism at SMU. Given the importance of the information age in today's society, students, faculty, the media industry in general and our community will all benefit significantly from the advantages of this greatly enriched curriculum."

Foundation Chair Burl Osborne said, "This is the largest gift ever given by The Belo Foundation. It reflects the imperative that citizens have access to reliable news and information, regardless of the form of distribution, in order to fully participate in a democracy. This can be assured only if future journalists are grounded in the principles of fairness and integrity that are central to credible content."

In addition to SMU's core curricula, plans call for individualized programs for students wishing to gain reporting skills in areas such as business, science, arts and entertainment, religion or sports. The content-based program is designed to give students a broad understanding of the world and how it works, the ability to think clearly and analyze critically plus the foundation for ethical decision-making.

Long-range plans for the journalism program include development of mid-career enrichment opportunities for media professionals through workshops, seminars and courses of varying durations.

"We want to prepare graduates to function in the changing journalistic world and to be among the future leaders of it. Media technology and delivery systems are changing more rapidly now than at any time in history, and it is vital that education keep pace with the changing world," said Ralph Langer, executive in residence and interim chair of SMU's Journalism Division.

Carole Brandt, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, said, "With Belo's partnership and support, journalism students will receive more than a first-rate education here because we intend to train the future leaders and decision makers of the discipline.

Grounded in critical thinking and ethical values, with academic rigor and professional standards, the SMU journalism program can be unique in this country. We are excited, proud and grateful to move toward that goal with Belo. We hope to use this gift to encourage other individuals and corporations to help develop this important program."

Taking advantage of the Dallas/Fort Worth media market, one of the largest in the nation, SMU is strengthening and expanding its relationships with area media organizations to provide students with increased opportunities for in-service experience such as internships and part-time jobs.

"Recognizing the growing impact of media on society, SMU is committed to educating media professionals who are grounded in the liberal arts and who understand the importance of applying ethical principles to their communications," said Ross C Murfin, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs.

The Belo Foundation was established in 1952 by Dallas-based Belo, whose extensive media ownerships include The Dallas Morning News, WFAA-TV, Texas Cable News and Belo Interactive, its Dallas-based Internet subsidiary. The foundation focuses its giving on two key areas of interest: journalism education and parks, open space, city planning and public improvements. In addition, it makes community service grants to qualified organizations in metropolitan areas served by Belo. The foundation has endowed journalism scholarships at SMU and the University of Texas at Austin.

The $5 million Belo Foundation gift counts toward SMU's $400 million capital campaign launched in 1997. This five-year campaign is the most ambitious fund-raising effort in the university's history, with the largest goal ever sought by an institution in North Texas. The campaign seeks endowment and other support to continue strengthening the quality of students, faculty, academic programs and selected facilities at SMU.