Reese News Lab, a major experimental media entrepreneurship initiative at the UNC School of Media and Journalism, is funded by a $3.5 million gift from the estate of alumnus Reese Felts.

It is the largest single gift ever by an individual to Carolina’s journalism school, and also funds a distinguished professorship in the school. Jean Folkerts, former dean of the school, announced the gift and project Oct. 1, 2009.

In July 2011, John Clark joined Reese News Lab as its executive director and changed what had been a student newsroom into a product innovation and development lab that focused on using the human-centered design process to ideate media products that would be desirable, feasible and viable. During the five years under Clark’s leadership, the Reese New Lab garnered national attention for its students’ product pitches. In 2014, the Lab launched Capitol Hound with $35,000 from the Knight Prototype Fund and $50,000 from the UNC C. Felix Harvey Fund for Institutional Priorities. In 2015, the Lab won a $150,000 Knight News Challenge grant to develop Campaign Hound, a project that pivoted into the N.C. Votes project. Also in 2014, Reese News Lab received nearly $45,000 from UNC alumnus Robin West to develop Kinethics, an anti-bribary training platform that later became an independent entity.

In 2015, the Reese News Lab received additional funding from the Knight Foundation through the MJ-School’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media.

About Reese Felts

Felts, a 1952 UNC graduate who worked for nearly 30 years as a radio and television broadcaster in Winston-Salem before retiring in 1980, died in 2009. He spent most of his career with WSJS, which is now WXII.

UNC students have benefited from Felts’ spirit of giving for years. In 1996, Felts endowed an annual $3,000 scholarship for journalism in the school. In 1997, he named three editing suites in Carroll Hall.