This week: 5 ways to get started with journalism and media grant making


This is one in a series of excerpts from our new booklet “Journalism and Media Grant Making: Five Things You Need to Know, Five Ways to Get Started.” Based on the experiences of foundations that are making media grants, it’s a primer for foundations that want to begin.

Five Ways to Get Started:’1. Map your community’s news ecosystem

The results may surprise you.

The Chicago Community Trust and the’William Penn Foundation were worried about the decline of established news media in their cities and they- -commissioned studies. While decline of traditional- -sources was evident, both foundations also discovered- something new emerging online.

‘Inventorying all the new local news and conducting research on the needs of information consumers helped us understand how we can be more strategic in our support for a strong information ecosystem. We learned that there are many interesting information experiments that need sustainable support. We also found, on the other hand, that some areas and populations ‘ particularly the city’s low-income neighborhoods ‘ are simply not as well served by this explosion of creativity as others. So we’re now working to stimulate development of new information sources for these areas.’ ‘ Ngoan Le, Vice President of Program, The Chicago Community Trust

In 2010, Knight Foundation and Monitor Institute, with advisory support from the Pew Research Center’s Project for the Internet and American Life project, tested a new way for a community to explore its local media ecosystem in three cities ‘ Philadelphia, San Jose, Calif., and Macon, Ga. They did research and then gathered community members and leaders to discuss the results. A popular feature of the media exploration exercise was a ‘scavenger hunt,’ wherein participants tried to find particular kinds of information, everything from how to get a driver’s license to a search for the big local school board issue. The result: the’Community Information Tookit, a workbook for community members who want to hold similar media learning sessions in their cities.

‘It was clear that people are eager to learn how changes in media are affecting their communities and what they can do about it. At the local workshops, many participants said they wanted to stay involved to help improve news and information flows. We think the best conversations are those focusing on a particular aspect of a community’s information system ‘ education news, or health information, or City Hall news ‘ the more targeted you can be the better. The information ecosystem is vast, and it is easy for folks to get lost in the woods if they aren’t considering just one aspect of the system.’ ‘ Mayur Patel, Director of Strategic Assessment Assistant to the President John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Bringing people and experts together is a good way to better understand the information flow and the needs in your community.

The’Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the’Community Foundation of South Wood County (Wisc.) convened major community gatherings to stoke discussion of local information needs and cement partnerships that drive their information projects.

As a result, the Buffalo foundation now has more than 150 local partner organizations that participate in its information project,’GrowWNY, a website focusing on green opportunities and environmental protection in western New York State. South Wood County’s convening focused on community information needs and the digital divide.

Tomorrow: 2. Run a Contest to Find New Voices Previously: Five things you need to know

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.