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Cosmo editor ponies up $30 million for the future of news

The new David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation will bring together students from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford's Engineering School in a bid to help inspire a new generation of news consumption tools and applications.

Journalists and engineers could come together to shape the future of news thanks to a new joint Columbia-Stanford media innovation institute funded by Cosmopolitan Editor Helen Gurley Brown.

The David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation will be an East Coast/West Coast collaboration. Housed at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City and Stanford's Engineering School in Palo Alto, Calif., the institute is thought to be a first of its kind initiative aimed at helping the foster a new era of communication between the editorial and technical sides of news organizations.

The institute comes as the result of $18 million in grants from the Cosmo editor to Columbia and $12 million for Stanford.

"In many news organizations, the tech people and the journalists often literally don't speak the same language," said Bill Grueskin, the academic dean at Columbia's journalism school. And that means that they can't approach problems--or new initiatives--with a unified vision.

"What can we do to not just increase the ability for the two sides to communicate and jointly work on projects," Grueskin continued, "but how can they work together to solve some of the real problems they're [attacking]?"

In a release about the founding of the Brown Institute, the two universities addressed what it could mean to bridge the journalist-engineer divide between New York and Silicon Valley.

"The institute and the collaboration between the two schools is groundbreaking in that it is designed to encourage and support new endeavors with the potential to inform and entertain in transformative ways," the schools said in the release. "It will recognize the increasingly important connection between journalism and technology, bringing the best from the East and West Coasts."

If that sounds a little vague, perhaps it shouldn't. New York is clearly the capital of the news industry, while Silicon Valley is the heart of the tech world. Bringing the two together--and giving promising students in the two programs some support for addressing the next generation of news tools and applications could mean that readers soon have access to more useful ways get the news they need than are available today.

Journalism and engineering students interested in confronting these issues will be able to apply for fellowships and grants at the two schools, as well as "Magic Grants," which will fund the best ideas that come out of the programs.

To Grueskin, the launch of the institute--which is likely to get off the ground beginning this year--means that some of the smartest people in journalism and engineering will be looking for new ways to "parse and present data in effective and cogent [ways] to come up with new forms of story telling--whether it's video or visualization or things that are more adaptable to the devices that are emerging."

And that means, Grueskin added, that those trying to think of what comes next in news distribution should consider the way that devices like the iPad have already changed things. It's important, the Columbia dean said, to find new ways to develop content tools that take advantage of devices like the iPad rather than just to find the quickest way to port content from one platform onto another.