Knight Foundation Kicks Out $3.1 Million for Local News Projects

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By: E&P Staff

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced Monday $3.14 million in matching grants for 19 locally focused foundations to support community news and information projects.

“These foundations are at the front line of an increasing movement of place-based foundations to improve the information health of America’s communities,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of Knight Foundation. “Their work helps residents have the information they need to make important decisions about their communities. Ultimately, our democracy will only thrive if we have informed and engaged communities.” 
“As local information sources have thinned, community and place-based foundations are taking a leadership role in ensuring communities continue to be informed and engaged,” said Trabian Shorters, Knight Foundation’s vice president for communities.
A recent Knight Foundation survey found that locally focused foundations are making news and information projects a funding priority. Of the 135 responding to the survey, half reported investing in the area, for a total of $165 million.
The Knight Community Information Challenge is part of Knight Foundation’s Media Innovation Initiative, a $100 million plus effort to meet America’s information needs.
Here is the list Knight Community Information Challenge winners with a summary of their projects supplied by the foundation:
Recipient: The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County
Project: I-News
Award: $305,500
Summary: To increase public interest investigative reports across the state, I-News, the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, will report and deliver multimedia investigative reports to news outlets across Colorado. The I-News team of veteran reporters will also create a network of community watchdogs by training residents on how to use public records, social media and other tools to better keep an eye on civic affairs. I-News will also offer specialized training in investigative journalism for partner newsrooms, raising the amount and depth of regional reporting.
Recipient: The California Endowment in partnership with Pacific News Service
Project: Youth-led media outlets
Award: $255,500
Summary: To raise awareness about the connection between people’s health and where they live, The California Endowment in partnership with the Pacific News Service will create a youth-produced news network in five underserved neighborhoods in California. The project will recruit up to 10 young correspondents per neighborhood who will be trained in information gathering, storytelling and digital media. Their stories, aired through media partners and a website, will address the relationship between individuals’ health and their environment and aim to make them feel more valued and understood. Distributing the content to a wider regional audience will raise awareness about the everyday lives of the poor.
Recipient: The Pittsburgh Foundation
Project: Public Interest News
Award: $253,000
Summary: To engage Pittsburgh residents around local news and information, this project will help launch a professionally produced public interest news site. Organizers will work with local nonprofits to develop culturally responsive, community-based storytelling programs, and a team of professional journalists will produce in-depth reports. In addition, organizers will connect the stories to local community engagement programs seeking to create a dialogue and action on issues at the grassroots level.Recipient: Hawaii Community Foundation
Project: Hiki No
Award: $240,500
Summary: To broaden young students’ perspectives, increase media literacy and develop future leaders, this project will create a statewide student news network linking middle and high schools across the islands of Hawaii. Called Hiki No, Hawaiian for “can do,” the journalism network, in partnership with PBS Hawaii, will produce newscasts on air and online.
Recipient: Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque
Project: Dubuque 2.0
Award: $205,500
Summary: A new web portal will feature alternative media, community events, “guerrilla marketing,” contests and games to motivate residents to reduce their carbon emissions. On Dubuque 2.0, residents will be able to share ideas, information and practices for building a sustainable community.
Recipient: Black Hills Area Community Foundation
Project: Knowledge Network
Award: $205,500
Summary: To broaden residents’ access to local information, this project will create the Black Hills Knowledge Network, an easy-to-use website run by journalists and a consortium of librarians. The site will aggregate and curate content developed by local government, media, nonprofits and other community institutions in South Dakota. It also will encourage residents to communicate with one another and lawmakers and will link their ideas to online source documents. In addition, the project will train residents and community journalists to fill gaps in news coverage, especially on issues affecting the urban and reservation Lakota communities.
Recipient: San Antonio Area Foundation
Project: NOWCastSA/ Texas Week
Award: $205,500
Summary: In order to increase the flow of neighborhood news in San Antonio, the local news site and previous challenge winner, NowCastSA, will partner with public television station KLRN-TV to increase the site’s visibility and use. The station will motivate users to access the NOWCastSA site and encourage community participation. The station also will use a weekly public affairs broadcast to provide a service that integrates multimedia platforms to encourage conversations about community issues through NOWCastSA.
Recipient: El Paso Community Foundation
Project: Newspaper Tree
Award: $203,000
Summary: To strenghten in-depth reporting on issues on both sides of the Mexico-Texas border, will return, making government and public affairs news more accessible to residents of the El Paso area. The site will provide a fun and easy-to-use forum for residents to express and exchange viewpoints. In addition, it aims to increase policy makers’ awareness of the needs of the community by aggregating news about immigration, U.S. relations with Mexico and drug trafficking policy.
Recipient: Austin Community Foundation
Project: ACCESS News
Award: $185,500
Summary: ACCESS News aims to inform and empower the deaf community through public access television and an interactive website featuring the perspectives of the hearing impaired. The project will engage students at Texas School for the Deaf to help produce 20, 30-minute shows annually in spoken English with American Sign Language and English and Spanish captions. The students will gain skills and experience, and contribute to the deaf community’s understanding of local issues, while bringing the perspective of the hearing impaired to the larger community.
Recipient: The Seattle Foundation
Project: Crosscut
Award: $185,500
Summary: To provide more context about local issues, the Seattle news site will launch two new features. The Explainer will describe the complex issues of the day in simple language. And Spotlight Projects will produce comprehensive coverage of a hot topic. An experienced reporter will be hired to lead the coverage, attending meetings and curating and posting background material on the site. In addition, the site will hire a community editor to include the viewpoints of ethnic, youth and other underrepresented communities.
Recipient: Alaska Community Foundation
Project: Alaska Public Telecommunications Inc.
Award: $175,500
Summary: As a way to connect Alaskans, the state’s public radio and TV stations will create a robust online news hub. The site will host hyperlocal blogs in addition to virtual community “think tanks” on specific issues like arts and culture, Alaskan natives and local business.  Organizers will make a special push to include the voices and contributions of rural Alaskans.
Recipient: Tulsa Community Foundation
Project: Tulsa Issues Reporting
Award: $153,000
Summary: To encourage debate and action, this project will create an online news hub focusing on women’s issues such as teen pregnancy and female incarceration. The content will be distributed to the mainstream media, in an effort to increase coverage on these critical topics. Over time, the project will develop a reporter-in-training program.
Recipient: New York Community Trust
Project: Feet in Two Worlds
Award: $110,500
Summary: To bring new perspectives to civic discourse in New York City, this project will strengthen the ethnic media through a training program called Feet in Two Worlds. While the ethnic media’s role in New York City is expanding, immigrant journalists still struggle to find an audience and platform outside their communities. Feet in Two Worlds will provide blogging and online journalism training and mentoring for up to 20 immigrant and ethnic media journalists. A smaller group will participate in the project’s public radio training program.
Recipient: Dade Community Foundation
Project: South Florida Public Affairs
Award: $103,000
Summary: To raise awareness about South Florida issues,  an online video site will expand to offer in-depth public policy and hyperlocal news. The interactive platform, built in partnership with a public TV station, will be designed to encourage community discussion. The project will also partner with online media sources and bloggers, as well as community organizations or individuals who can produce video features and other online content.
Recipient: The Raymond John Wean Foundation
Award: $79,000
Summary: To give people of Youngstown, Ohio a voice, will provide a space for residents to vote on stories to be covered concerning underreported issues, people and neighborhoods. Student journalists will then report the stories for mainstream media. A pilot project produced stories on topics ranging from lottery ticket sales to neighborhood revitalization efforts. Reports were published in a local paper and on public radio.
Recipient: The Boston Foundation
Project: CommonWealth Online
Award: $78,000
Summary: In order to empower more residents to voice their opinions on Massachusetts issues, this grant will provide interactive polling software for Boston’s CommonWealth Online, an in-depth website focused on politics and policy. A previous challenge winner, the site will use the software to move the public dialogue on politics away from personalities and more toward issues and community concerns.
Recipient: The Cleveland Foundation
Project: MyMedia
Award: $69,000
Summary: To increase the youth voice on local issues, this project will train 20 teens in media literacy and the creation of informational products such as videos and podcasts for the website, MyCom: My Commitment, My Community. focuses on inspiring young Cleveland residents to reach their full potential. The trainees will then use those skills to increase their presence in the local mainstream media and inform families and other youths of important issues. The project will also produce online training modules so that more Cleveland teens can learn how to produce their own stories.
Recipient: West Anniston Foundation
Project: West Anniston Today
Award: $67,000
Summary: As a way to provide credible information on the effects of industrial pollution in West Anniston, Ala. this project will create a weekly call-in radio program and website dedicated to the issue. West Anniston Today will provide information from the Centers for Disease Control and other sources on PCB waste left in the area. Residents will be able to ask questions, get feedback from specialists and act on a solid base of knowledge.
Recipient: Greater New Orleans Foundation
Project: The Lens
Award: $63,000
Summary: To broaden New Orleans residents’ discourse and understanding of the use of hurricane recovery funds, this grant will enhance the way the online news site The Lens visually displays data. The site specializes in covering the rebuilding of the New Orleans region, with an eye toward government accountability and transparency. At the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, The Lens seeks to provide fresh information and analysis to ensure that the city embraces opportunities and engages citizens in the process.

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