Articles by

Michele McLellan

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    The following information is cross-posted from the Knight Digital Media Center. It is written by Knight Community Information Challenge Circuit Rider Michele McLellan. Photo credit: Flickr user bluefountainmedia. Do web metrics make your eyes glaze and your heartbeat increase? Help is on the way. Knight Community Information Challenge Circuit Rider Susan Mernit will offer a free, hands-on webinar with tangible strategies for using Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and other tools to measure results and make strategic decisions about your online project or website. The webinar, sponsored by Knight Digital Media Center at USC Annenberg, is aimed at representatives of community foundations, local nonprofits and journalists who are responsible for online projects and want to better understand how to measure and evaluate the impact of their work. The session will cover:
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      The following information is cross-posted from the Knight Digital Media Center. In a unique partnership, MIT and the Incourage Community Foundation in central Wisconsin, have developed What’s Up, an initiative that delivers real-time employment service information to residents who are not online, where job information is usually found. Representatives of Incourage and MIT Center for Civic Media will discuss What’s Up in a free webinar on April 3 geared to leaders of community foundation and other mission-driven organizations that are looking for ways to bridge the digital divide in their communities. RELATED LINK    Case Studies: "How Four Community Foundations Information Projects Went From Idea to Impact"                         The webinar will cover: Why it is important to establish easy access to online information on offline channels to reach all members of the community. How the What's Up initiative is informing and engaging local citizens in Central Wisconsin. Key lessons from the initiative (so far) and best practices for other foundations. What’s Up uses digital signs, print materials, an all-access phone system and a webpage to connect job-seekers with opportunities.  This free, one-hour webinar will offer tips and tools for community foundations and other mission driven organizations seeking to bridge a digital divide in their communities. The partnership is also releasing a white paper on the initiative.
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    The following is cross-posted from the Knight Digital Media Center's blog. The Lens, an investigative news organization serving New Orleans, has been granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax status by the IRS after a 26-month wait. "This IRS  declaration marks a new chapter in the life of The Lens," Karen Gadbois, co-founder, said. The organization will celebrate its third anniversary on Jan. 18. The designation makes it easier for The Lens to raise money from foundations and tax-deductible donations. The Lens was one of a number of nonprofit news start ups undergoing lengthy reviews by the IRS, and this prompted a review by the Council on Foundations since more and more foundations are interested in supporting local news start ups. Earlier this year, the San Francisco Public Press received its designation after a 32-month wait.
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    The following is cross-posted from the Knight Digital Media Center's blog. Above: a Community News Commons workshop.  Noah Erenberg, convener for Winnipeg's Community News Commons, spends a lot of time training contributors to the citizen news site. He holds workshops that reach different segments of the community, thanks to partnerships with a local library, a college and the city's newspaper - The Winnipeg Free Press, which launched the Free Press Cafe, where the CNC regularly trains contributors. "Our three primary partners are key to our steady growth and early success," Erenberg said in an email, providing space for workshops, professional expertise and publicity. In return, Erberg believes partnering with the Community News Commons, a project of The Winnipeg Foundation, helps the local organizations deepen their own engagement with the community in the digital age. "What we’re doing with CNC is exactly what newspapers, colleges and libraries need to do anyways in this day and age in order to survive. They need to find different, more interesting, more compelling and more engaging ways to connect to the public," Erenberg said. The primary college partner, Red River College, has made submissions to CNC part of the curriculum for about 100 first and second year journalism students, he said. Erenberg said he is working to develop additional partnerships, including recruiting journalism and writing students from other local colleges and schools. In Akron, Ohio, a partnership with the local library significantly raised visibility and public participation for akronist.com, a project of the Akron Community Foundation. The training arm of the project, Akron Digital Media Center, has a lab and training are on the main floor of the downtown library.
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    The following is cross-posted from the Knight Digital Media Center's blog. Photo Credit: The Rapidian. Mainstream news organizations have had mixed results with citizen news reporting. While crowd-sourcing efforts such as CNN’s iReport and Help Me Investigate have yielded valuable information, many other efforts have foundered, often on journalists’ expectation that citizen-created news must look like what the professionals produce to have value. Enter community foundation-supported initiatives to enable citizens to report news in their communities. Projects such as Akronist.com, The Rapidian and Winnipeg’s Community News Commons are demonstrating that may not always, walk or quack like the duck of mainstream journalism – but the stories that citizens tell about themselves and their communities engage and inform nonetheless. The three projects are winners of the Knight Community Information Challenge. Engagement is a key word here. Generally, the professional newsroom is focused on content and has a tradition of one-way delivery of that content. As digital has opened up the pathways for two-way interaction, newsrooms are challenged to envision and implement direct engagement with people.
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    Photo Credit: Flickr user carfull...Wyoming There's a lot of housing data in the Washington, D.C. region, from lists of owners and addresses to numbers of code violations, but it can be close to impossible for researchers and policy makers working with the data to pull it into one easy to manage, coherent whole.  The recent Knight Foundation grant to the The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region will help the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development, and NeighborhoodInfo DC,  a project of The Urban Institute, create a new web/mobile tool that will provide an easier way to access and work with infomation on affordable housing for the D.C. region. The DC Preservation Catalog project brings data that comes from several disparate sources into one Access database  that is used by the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development, NeighborhoodInfo DC, and the DC Preservation Network--an entire coalition of city agencies and affordable housing advocates and developers--to identify and track affordable housing units. The new and improved platform for this data will give users an easier way to track and help maintain a healthy pool of affordable housing. According to Peter Tatian,  Senior Research Associate in the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center and the project's manager, there are over 1,000 properties currently listed on the DC Preservation Catalog. However, the listings are in a kludgy Access database that is hard to use. This means that the best solution that staffers who use the data as part of the  DC Preservation Catalog network have is to compile the listings into a giant PDF every month and then make printouts to bring to meetings. "We use the housing data during meetings to make decisions on how to work with landlords, tenants, and owners to help keep their properties affordable, occupied and viable," explains Tatian. "Building an app will make it so much easier to use the data--and map it--so we can discuss and decide on preservation strategies for properties that need support in a more agile way." Tatian and his team are basing some of their inspiration for their project on a similar project launched in New York City in 2011 by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a New York University housed research center that developed a data search tool that provides online access to New York City housing data collected by the Furman Center. In the year since its launch, the Furman Center Data Search tool has been used to create hundred of customized maps, downloadable data sets and housing trendiness. The new housing database and app Tatian is planning will allow current members of the DC Preservation Catalog network to more easily search D.C.'s roster of affordable housing by categories such as name, owner, location, year built, financing, subsidy expiration dates, the numbers of affordable apartments, and latest housing quality inspection. Data will be able to be overlaid on a map interface that can be set to show information pulled from HUD, county databases and other sources.
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    The Community News Commons, a citizen reporting news site in Winnipeg, is now live online with a formal launch planned for the fall. Noah Erenberg, its community news commons convenor, said 80 people have registered to become contributors. Many have posted stories, some on a regular basis, Erenberg said. The Commons is a project of The Winnipeg Foundation, a 2011 Knight Community Information Challenge winner, and the first Canadian project to win the competition. Partners are the Free Press Cafe, Millennium Library and Red River College. So far, community response is encouraging.  “As we are building interest and momentum around the citizen journalism project, we are also very encouraged by the opportunities for collaboration with other communities partners such as our local libraries and the local college journalism program,” said LuAnn Lovlin, director of communications at the foundation. “When we put those organizations into the mix, along with Canada’s first news café, we believe it will make for a more informed and engaged community, which The Winnipeg Foundation believes, ultimately, will be a more caring and giving community.” The Commons provides training on these topics:
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    Above: Inside the ProPublica newsroom. Photo credit Flickr user propublica. The News Outlet, a two-time winner of Knight's Community Information Challenge based at Youngstown State University, has attracted an important partnership with ProPublica, a leading national investigative reporting organization. Stephen Engelberg, managing editor of ProPublica, will help lead an Advanced Reporting course at Youngstown State University in the fall, working with students to report and produce investigative stories. Engelberg said ProPublica is interested in sharing its expertise, and that the university’s open-access mission and heavy emphasis on investigative reporting make it a strong fit for the project, according to a press release about the partnership. "With regional publications under financial strain, the question of how to train the next generation of investigative journalists is now a critical one. We are delighted to participate in this approach, which shows real promise,'' he said. Engelberg will join Youngstown State University Journalism Professors Tim Francisco and Alyssa Lenhoff in leading the class. Francisco and Lenhoff are co-directors of The News Outlet, which won the Knight Community Information Challenge in 2010 and 2011 with support from the Raymond John Wean Foundation and the Youngstown Foundation. The News Outlet was launched at Youngstown State University and has grown to become a joint venture among several other universities and professional media organizations in Ohio. The News Outlet’s student journalists produce enterprise and investigative stories that are shared on different platforms with news organizations, including local newspapers and public radio stations.
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    The Lens, a two-time winner of the Knight Community Information Challenge, won big at this year's local Excellence in Journalism Awards.  The site, supported by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, received three first-place awards, including Best Local News Website. Nola.com, the site of the local Times-Picayune newspaper, came in second.  The Lens also received first place for Best Investigative Story in Print as well as third place in this category and first for Best News Affiliated Blog in the annual contest, sponsored by the Press Club of New Orleans. The awards came at the start of a busy week for the news media scene in New Orleans, which learned recently that its daily newspaper would publish only three days a week, starting in the fall. The week ended with the announcement of formation of a new nonprofit news organization, NewOrleansReporter.org, a collaboration of NPR, the University of New Orleans.
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    Above: A video documentary on turaround efforts at a Chicago school  As more and more non-traditional actors take the stage in providing news and information in local communities, it’s valuable to get past the either-or journalist-vs-citizen journalist argument and look at who actually creates value. A new report for The Chicago Community Trust offers significant evidence that information providers outside mainstream media have much to offer. The Chicago Community Trust’s Local Reporting Awards project provided 31 small grants last year to “produce a burst of impactful, relevant coverage of, by and for” low income communities on the south and west sides of the city. Award winners included a mix of traditional and non-traditional information providers, journalists and non-journalists. Topic ranged from race and class to tax and health care policy to cyberbullying and other youth issues. The evaluation by Janet Coats of Coats2Coats, found that journalistic quality was high across the board. “We were blown away by the quality of the work,” Coats said in her report. “Across the board, the sourcing in this work is strong. There is an appropriate blend of the institutional and the grassroots in the sources the award winners used. We saw very little 'he said/she said’' structure in the coverage; sources are used to speak from their areas of experience and expertise, without a false confrontational construct. We also were pleased by the number of sources the award recipients used in their work. Even in professional reporting, it is all too common to see single- or two-source stories.” Some credit goes to The Chicago Reporter and the Community Media Workshop in Chicago, which greatly improved editorial quality and distribution of the work, the report said. Still, it’s interesting that the efforts of the non-traditional sources were so highly rated.
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    The Lens, a two-time Knight Community Information Challenge winner, has won a prestigious national Edward R. Murrow Award. The New Orleans online investigative site won the Audio Investigative Reporting Award for “One homeowner’s travails: Even after more than six years, family can’t move into ‘new’ house." The report, produced in cooperation with the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism, investigated the story of a New Orleans family that was persuaded by a bank to use its Katrina insurance settlement to pay off the mortgage of their home, leaving no money to repair it. The report brought into focus the problem of more than 40,000 blighted homes in New Orleans and illustrated how the recovery process has left people who lack financial literacy homeless.