From a podium outside the new Center For Collaborative Journalism, Mercer University president Bill Underwood read aloud words mounted in the vestibule behind him: the complete First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"We formally dedicate this center, and those who work, teach, and study in it, to advance the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment," he said.
The new building houses a collaboration between Mercer, The Telegraph of Macon, and GPB. It has been in operation since August, but representatives from all three organizations and the foundations that helped fund the building held a ceremonial ribbon cutting Friday.
"We have a private university, we have a commercially-based entity in the Telegraph, and a public media entity all coming together," said Teya Ryan, president and executive director of GPB. "Take a moment to think about that because I don't know anywhere else where that is happening."
GPB has a pre-existing radio bureau around the corner from the new CCJ building, which is being reinforced with new staff to participate in the collaborative.
"We hope what we're doing now is setting the stage to give back to the Macon and Middle Georgia community what you have given to us," Ryan said.
The idea to relocate the Telegraph's reporting staff onto the Mercer University campus was first proposed by Telegraph publisher George McCanless. President Underwood's positive response ultimately led to GPB's involvement and a plan to have journalists from both organizations working together with students and Mercer faculty to bolster coverage of Macon and the surrounding region.
"When we started exposing our news staffs to this idea," McCanless said, "as the good journalists they are, they had some pretty tough questions. But they quickly realized that not only would this be of great benefit to journalism education, but it's also going to be a great benefit and will enhance the quality of news that we're able to deliver to the community from our newsroom."
Funding for the new CCJ building was drawn from a $4.6 million grant from the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and a $1 million grant from the Macon-based Peyton Anderson Foundation.
Both foundations are named after former owners of The Telegraph.