Mercer University Center for Collaborative Journalism to Host National Unconference on Blight


MACON – Mercer University's Center for Collaborative Journalism (CCJ) and the Sunlight Foundation will host an unconference focused on the issue of urban blight, Aug. 14-15, on the Macon campus. The event is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

From Detroit, Michigan, to Macon, Georgia, many of America's once-proud cities have suffered waves of depopulation and flight to the suburbs, leaving behind empty homes and crumbling streets. Unblight – a national unconference on blight – will bring together community advocates, technologists, journalists, policymakers and students interested to exchange ideas and share lessons about combating blight and repurposing abandoned parts of our communities. It will explore questions such as “How big is the problem?” and “What innovative solutions can take us from a blighted past to a brighter future?”

“Open property and housing data is just one example of how putting more information in the hands of the public can help create real change,” said Ellen Miller, executive director at the Sunlight Foundation. “Sunlight Foundation is pleased to be a part of the Unblight unconference, which is bringing together some of the most innovative people, projects and technologies to help to create tangible solutions for the myriad housing challenges around the country.”

“The Center for Collaborative Journalism is excited to host this national gathering of experts and those interested in addressing this very real issue,” said Tim Regan-Porter, director of CCJ. “In our survey of the Macon community, blight emerged as one of the top concerns of residents. Our conversations with others involved in housing and urban development reveal that Macon is not alone, and we can all benefit by sharing our experience in combatting blight.”

An unconference is a more participant-driven take on the traditional format of a conference. The agenda is set by the attendees, as open space is created for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity.

During Unblight, experts and practitioners will present mapping and visualization projects, examples of successful tactics for foreclosure prevention, tools to help identify blighted and vacant homes, and creative ways to reclaim public space and ways to use technology and data to create more thriving communities.

The unconference is one of three components of the CCJ's latest engagement project, which is focused on the issue of blight. The project also includes an initiative to map blighted homes in Macon-Bibb County and a series of stories in The Telegraph and GPB set for the coming months.

For more information on Unblight, and to register, click here. Registration fees are $25 for students and $55 for others.

About the Sunlight Foundation

The Sunlight Foundation is a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for open government globally and uses technology to make government more accountable to all by creating tools, open data, policy recommendations, journalism and grant opportunities to dramatically expand access to vital government information to create accountability of our public officials. For more information, visit

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts, and believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more information, visit

About the Center for Collaborative Journalism

The Center for Collaborative Journalism (CCJ) is a unique partnership between Mercer University, The Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Peyton Anderson Foundation. The Center's groundbreaking collaboration has students, faculty and veteran journalists working together in a joint newsroom. Learning in a “teaching hospital” model, students engage the community using the latest digital tools and leave with a strong portfolio of published work. For more information, visit

Kyle Sears
Kyle is the director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he coordinates hometown and university news releases and serves as editor of the News@Mercer e-newsletter and Reach magazine.​