Knight Foundation Supports The Wesleyan Media Project

Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government, is director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

The Wesleyan Media Project has received a $100,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Wesleyan Media Project is a non-partisan initiative designed to perform comprehensive tracking and analysis of federal and gubernatorial political advertisements by candidates, parties and special interest groups. It also provides experiential learning for graduate and undergraduate students in the review, coding and analysis of political advertisements.

Since its launch in late September 2010, The Wesleyan Media Project has become an important source of data for journalists and citizens providing data and analysis on, among other things, which interest groups are attempting to influence elections as the election unfolds. It has enabled journalists to uncover trends in advertising and spending throughout the campaign season. The project has also provided the basis for a better understanding of the candidates and interests involved in the campaigns.

The hope is that by enhancing the ability of citizens, scholars and journalists to hold elected officials accountable, the project will improve the public’s awareness of the role of money in the political process. Ultimately, the study’s findings may impact the consideration of campaign funding policy proposals.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950, the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

In addition to supporting The Wesleyan Media Project’s operation, the Knight Foundation funding allows for the procurement of advanced ad tracking through a third party provider, software development and television tracking subscriptions. It will also provide support for a post-election conference for journalists to wrap up the findings from this election cycle, solicit feedback and promote plans for the 2012 presidential election.

The Wesleyan Media Project succeeds the Wisconsin Advertising Project, which disbanded in 2009. It is housed in Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center, part of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. It is directed by Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government, and her collaborators Michael M. Franz, associate professor of government at Bowdoin College and Travis N. Ridout, associate professor of political science at Washington State University.

In addition to support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Wesleyan Media Project has received primary funding support from The Sunlight Foundation and Wesleyan University, and additional support from Bowdoin College and Washington State University.