The foundations will receive a total of $2.26 million in matching grants as part of the Knight Community Information Challenge. The annual contest engages North American place-based foundations in meeting local information needs.
SAN FRANCISCO—Sept. 21, 2011— To help ensure that communities are informed on key issues, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced funding for 19 local foundations to support community news and information projects.
“If you care about what’s going on in local government, the local environment or any local issues, you need to know about it to make a difference,” said Trabian Shorters, vice president for communities, Knight Foundation. “These community and place-based foundations are stepping up to make sure that their communities get good information.”
As newspapers and other traditional media continue to struggle, community foundations and place-based foundations play an increasingly important role in helping groups provide local news and information.
The winning ideas, announced at the Council on Foundation’s fall conference for community foundations, are from organizations large and small throughout the country. They include:
Providing information about specific issues: Whether it is increasing the coverage of charter schools in New Orleans, encouraging healthy food and lifestyles in Lexington, Ky., or helping rural Puerto Ricans find and create jobs, foundations are helping to shine the light on critical topics.
Telling stories through data: In Denver and Atlanta, three foundations are finding ways to take advantage of increasingly available government data and put it to use for communities.
Strengthening local, professional journalism: Projects will connect rural journalists in South Dakota, hire beat reporters for a Vermont start-up and expand public radio in the Adirondacks region of New York State.
All the winners are listed below.
Through their news and information projects, community foundations are seeing their own organizations transformed, as they raise their visibility, engage residents and strengthen their leadership roles.
A new report, Opportunities for Leadership: Meeting Community Information Needs, details the stories of foundations and their projects. The report highlights organizations like NJ Spotlight, a start-up the Community Foundation of New Jersey began to fund when the local paper announced layoffs. The Spotlight has broken major statewide stories. In Western New York, the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo is helping to bring the environmental movement together through an information hub. The report is available online.
The Knight Community Information Challenge is part of the foundation’s Media Innovation Initiative, a $100 million plus effort to help meet America’s information needs.
Knight Foundation will again accept applications for the next round of the Knight Community Information Challenge beginning on Jan. 18, 2012. In addition, foundation leaders are invited to register for Knight’s fourth annual Media Learning Seminar, a gathering to discuss ways in which foundations can support news and information needs and opportunities. The seminar will take place Feb. 20-21, 2012 in Miami. Register on the Knight Foundation web site.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit KnightFoundation.org.
Barbara Beck, Sage Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org, 215.209.3076.
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Knight Community Information Challenge – 2011 Winners
Putting 21st Century Public Media on a Rural, New York Map
Recipient: Adirondack Community Trust, Lake Placid, N.Y.
Project: North Country Public Radio
Summary: To improve this rural community’s access to news and information, North Country Public Radio will expand and deepen its broadcast and digital operations and encourage residents to contribute content and help sustain its regional news and information service. Training programs will both engage community members in the news and help establish a path for the next generation of public media professionals.
Promoting Healthy, Informed Choices in Kentucky
Recipient: Blue Grass Community Foundation, Lexington, Ky.
Project: Food Information Center
Summary: To promote healthy, informed lifestyle choices in the East End neighborhood of Lexington, the Blue Grass Community Foundation will create a virtual food information center where locals can share information about local food and health assets. Community members, including kids in this area where 97 percent of students receive free or reduced lunches, will interview elders to produce stories. The site, in addition to in-person seminars, will ensure that residents can learn about gardening, food preparation, cooking and entrepreneurship.
Providing a Voice for Brooklyn Residents
Recipient: Brooklyn Community Foundation, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Project: The Brooklyn Bureau
Summary: To provide hyper-local news to underserved neighborhoods in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Brooklyn Community Foundation will establish The Brooklyn Bureau, an investigative reporting website featuring timely and compelling stories about key local issues. While Brooklyn is home to several strong community and ethnic newspapers and known for its fleet of bloggers, many of the borough’s more than 70 neighborhoods are still underserved. The project will use multiple platforms to capture its diverse readers, including a website, mobile apps, RSS feeds and more. It will also host online forums on pressing community issues.
Raising Awareness about Towing Practices in California
Recipient: California Community Foundation, Los Angeles, Calif.
Project: Report and Map It
Summary: To raise awareness about the impounding of cars, the California Community Foundation will enable locals to use mobile phones to anonymously report car impoundments. The Report and Map It campaign will feature a mobile app that will aggregate information and location details from text messages and photos sent by residents. This data will be presented in a digestible way, aiming to stop abuses by influencing policy. The campaign will also establish a bilingual, region-specific website and training sessions to help residents learn about their legal rights.
Expanding the Reach of Hyper-local News in Charlottesville, Va.
Recipient: Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, Charlottesville, Va.
Project: Charlottesville Tomorrow
Summary: To strengthen engagement with readers and donors, the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation will increase the staff of the community’s hyper-local news site and expand coverage for its community wiki, which provides in-depth information on local issues, and for its 3D mapping projects, which aids in community planning. In doing so, Charlottesville Tomorrow seeks to increase community involvement in local issues .
Empowering Disenfranchised Communities to Take Action on Environmental Justice in Western New York
Recipient: Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y.
Project: Grow Citizen Journalism Project
Summary: To empower disenfranchised local communities affected by environmental issues, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo will expand its GrowWNY.org site, a previous challenge winner, to include mobile reporting, mapping and new information applications. These new tools will give a voice to low-income communities and people of color who are disproportionately affected by environmental pollution and have few resources to take action. The Grow Citizen Journalism Project will also train citizens in story creation techniques so they can share their first-hand experiences with their toxic surroundings to raise awareness of the issues and encourage action.
Creating a Watchdog for New Orleans’ Charter Schools
Recipient: Greater New Orleans Foundation, New Orleans, La.
Project: School Board Coverage
Summary: To provide greater transparency and accountability in charter schools, the local news site The Lens will train college journalism students to tweet from and write about the meetings of local charter schools. New Orleans has the highest percentage of students attending charter schools in the country, yet there is little coverage of the boards that govern the schools. Each student journalist will cover a different school and report the events and details of important board meetings and gatherings. All relevant content will be archived, in order to ensure greater accountability in how the schools are run.
Reporting on Nebraska’s Refugee Communities
Recipient: Lincoln Community Foundation, Lincoln, Neb.
Project: Refugee Storytelling
Summary: To provide more coverage of the city’s refugee community, journalism students from the University of Nebraska will move a class to a local community center and use multimedia storytelling to share stories. The content will then be offered to local outlets, aiming to promote both understanding in Lincoln and civic engagement among the city’s newest residents.
Rethinking Public Broadcasting in Long Beach
Recipient: Long Beach Community Foundation, Long Beach, Calif.
Project: Public Access TV
Summary: In returning public access television to Long Beach, this project will create hyper-local, multilingual programming on a variety of platforms. Programming, some contributed by residents reporting from a network of neighborhood studios, will be presented in English, Khmer and Spanish. A nightly program will showcase professional and citizen-created content, aiming to get more people engaged in local issues. In addition, an outreach and training program will encourage people of all ethnicities and age groups to participate.
Using Information to Spur the Economy in Rural Puerto Rico
Recipient: Puerto Rico Community Foundation, San Juan, P.R.
Project: Increasing Rural Access to Information
Summary: This project will provide information on jobs and entrepreneurship to communities in rural Puerto Rico, where the unemployment rate is about 40 percent. Organizers will share tips on how to create jobs, get permits and manage projects, among other topics, either online or through texting and other mobile technologies.
Empowering Latino Youth in the Voting Process
Recipient: Silicon Valley Community Foundation, San Jose, Calif.
Project: Mobile Vote App
Summary: To empower and engage young Latinos, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation will team with Voto Latino to create a mobile app that will connect voters to information about voter registration. The multifaceted mobile voter application will be available to Apple and Android devices, and will target young Latinos – currently the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. It will explain the voting and registration processes, provide details on prerequisites and answer frequently asked questions.
Strengthening Rural Journalism in South Dakota
Recipient: South Dakota Community Foundation, Pierre, S.D.
Project: Dakotafire Media
Summary: To strengthen regional coverage, Dakotafire Media will create an alliance of rural journalists to provide in-depth reporting on topics vital to rural South Dakota. The alliance will connect these journalists through online meetings, social networking and collaborative writing software – allowing them to cover topics they couldn’t meaningfully address alone. The journalists, many of whom come from newspapers with staffs of three or fewer people, will also be able to exchange ideas and learn from each other. As some of these newspapers don’t have websites, Dakotafire will offer an online presence for them. The funding comes at a time of great change in the rural Dakotas, where the population is declining and aging, and metro newspapers are retreating to urban centers.
Empowering Atlanta Neighborhoods to Use Data for Community Change
Recipient: The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga.
Project: Neighborhood Corner
Summary: To help inform residents and engage them in neighborhood issues, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta will connect residents to an extensive data hub and train them on how to add their personal stories, photos and videos of their communities. The hub, called Neighborhood Nexus, is a comprehensive information resource that empowers community leaders to enhance the quality of life in the Atlanta region. The Community Foundation hopes the online collaboration and in-person dialogue will transform decision making and empower citizens and leaders to lobby for and make improvements in their area.
Empowering Youth to Share Their Viewpoints on Air
Recipient: The Community Foundation of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
Summary: To engage young people in local issues, Salt Lake City teens will have the opportunity to develop a Youth-On-Air broadcasting program. Working with Spy Hop Productions, the students will produce original stories about the issues affecting their lives. These stories will then be shared on TV, on radio and online through Web streaming. Their stories will aim to inform and engage citizens of all ages in conversations about social, political and economic issues of significance, while empowering teens to express themselves and take action for change.
Unlocking Public Data for Denver Residents
Recipient: The Denver Foundation, Denver, Colo.
Project: Colorado Data Commons
Summary: To increase residents’ access to useful news and information, The Denver Foundation, partnering with The Piton Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, will create an online tool to unlock public data and make it easy for anybody to read and use. The project, called the Colorado Data Commons, will begin by identifying the barriers that keep government data from being more accessible, then devise tools to solve those problems. Some key features include an ability to link data sets and provide multiyear comparisons, creating not only tools to remove the barriers but also ways to visualize data that integrate social media so people can share their analyses. As an example, community groups could use the system to create a dashboard that tracks, or even maps, issues important to them.
Turning Data into Engaging Stories in Colorado
Recipient: The Piton Foundation, Denver, Colo.
Summary: To foster greater civic dialogue, The Piton Foundation will draw on its 15 years of democratizing information to create free tools to help citizens translate public data into captivating stories. A major component will be an easy-to-use, online platform that allows users to post their stories and search data and content for others to interact with. The program will also provide training and outreach programs to empower underprivileged communities to navigate the site and tell their stories. The Children’s Corridor, a North Denver neighborhood home to some of the city’s poorest communities, will serve as a pilot for the public release.
Expanding a Crowdsourced Community News Site in Ohio
Recipient: The Raymond John Wean Foundation, Warren, Ohio
Summary: To keep citizens up to date on local issues, The Raymond John Wean Foundation will expand NewsOutlet.org, a collaborative, investigative reporting platform run by college students and professional editors. The project will use the existing model in Youngstown, Ohio, which crowdsources story topics from and about the community, and expand it to other universities and media partners throughout the state. The foundation hopes that greater interaction and increased local content will foster solutions to neighborhood problems.
Expanding Citizen Voice in Canadian Media
Recipient: The Winnipeg Foundation and The Winnipeg Foundation USA, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Project: Community News Commons
Summary: To strengthen the flow of community news in Winnipeg, the Community News Commons project will create local hubs to train, engage and empower citizen journalists. The hubs, including a partnership with Canada's first news café – operated by the Winnipeg Free Press daily newspaper – and the city's libraries, local community college programs and other media partners, will host training and provide internships and reporting mentorship for local residents and college journalism students. Multimedia reports will be distributed through an onsite news station, via the Web and at café-hosted community news events.
Strengthening Investigative Journalism in Vermont
Recipient: Vermont Community Foundation
Summary: To bolster watchdog journalism, VTDigger.org will use funds to hire an investigative reporter to cover health reform and energy issues in Vermont. The reporter will gather material for long-form stories while providing daily coverage to the news site’s 23,000 readers statewide. Stories will focus on health and energy as they are issues that drive the state’s economy and are among the topics Vermonters care about most.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.