Five Ways to Get Started: 4. Partner with a local news organization
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Even if your community’s traditional news organizations have been shrinking, they likely still have considerable reach.
An established news organization in your community may be a great partner for news and information projects, especially if you want to reach a wide audience. The Alaska Community Foundation, for example, is working with Alaska Public Telecommunications Inc. to create a hub of local blogs that will bring diverse voices to the airwaves. The Hawaii Community Foundation is partnering with PBS Hawaii to create Hiki No (Can do), which will create a statewide student news network. The Rhode Island Foundation partners with an NPR affiliate, which airs its forums on important public issues.
In some cases, funding the work of an existing news organization may create a more stable flow of information than starting your own project. That’s the philosophy behind many of The George Gund Foundation’s media grants. These including the funding for NPR, for a statewide environmental newspaper in Ohio ($25,000-$40,000) and for Ideastream, a local public broadcasting company ($250,000).
“Funders can support local public affairs journalism without starting from scratch. We can bolster existing media. Too often foundations get enamored with the idea of launching their own projects. But those projects frequently are short-lived because of the all-too- common tendency of foundations to jump from issue to issue and because their foundation-centric initiatives excluded the sort of broad-based funding that would have built sustainable efforts.” – David T. Abbott, Executive Director, The George Gund Foundation
You may find partners outside of traditional media.
The Community Foundation of South Wood County in Central Wisconsin has invested heavily in developing partnerships with local businesses and agencies as it creates projects that will help residents cross the digital divide. More recently, the foundation has formed a partnership with the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop several interactive information programs for local residents and students.
“We provide the MIT Media Lab with a ‘community lab’ within which technology experiments to foster civic engagement can be created and tested. The Lab benefits from our foundation’s networks, reputation in the community and holistic approach to re-development.” – Kelly Lucas, President and CEO, Community Foundation of South Wood County
Tomorrow: 5. Help create a public interest news organization
Five things you need to know
Five Ways to Get Started
Stay tuned for more ideas. The full booklet will be available as a pdf on this site later this week and in print in April at the annual conference of the Council on Foundations. The booklet is sponsored by the Knight Foundation and the William Penn Foundation.
Has your foundation invested in news and information efforts? Do you have questions about media grant making? Please tell us about them in the comments.