Articles by

Michele McLellan

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    Photo Credit: Flickr user .distracted As New Orleans prepares to become a major city without a daily newspaper, a foundation-supported online news start-up this week documented residents’ love of the local Times-Picayune. Starting this fall, the paper will be printed and delivered only three days a week. That’s a blow for a city with lots of committed newspaper readers. The Lens NOLA, a nonprofit news site in New Orleans and a Knight Community Information Challenge winner, decided to show what that commitment looks like. Managing editor Steve Beatty assigned a photographer to show New Orleans residents reading their newspapers on Monday and Tuesday, days when the Times-Picayune will no longer be published starting in the fall. The result is a photo essay entitled “A look at a disappearing daily ritual for many.”
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    Photo courtesy The News Outlet A student journalist with The News Outlet has won a top award for investigative reporting in Ohio. The News Outlet is a two-time winner of the Knight Community Information Challenge. The project, based at Youngstown University, partners student journalists, who report important local stories, with established media organizations that publish them. It is also funded by the Raymond John Wean Foundation. Christine Keeling won the Ohio Associated Press Best Investigative Reporting annual award on May 6.  Keeling won the award for her reporting on the troubled financial dealings of a local church that was holding a large tract of land needed for neighborhood revitalization. The stories appeared in The Vindicator newspaper and news site. They included: “Influential church battles back taxes” and “Idora idleness frustrates residents.”
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    The first issue of Dakotafire, a 2011 Knight Community Information Challenge winner, is online. Dakotafire works with eight local newspaper partners to produce a quarterly publication that explores important regional issues in the James River watershed area of North and South Dakota. The project is funded by the South Dakota Community Foundation. “Dakotafire’s alliance of reporters and editors work together to produce in-depth, regionwide coverage of issues vital to the sustainability of the area’s rural communities,” the site says in describing its mission. “This alliance, which connects these journalists online, allows them to cover topics they could not address as successfully alone.” The inaugural spring 2012 issue of Dakotafire focuses on an issue that is dear to editor Heidi Marrila-Losure, a co-founder. “Learn, then Return” explores “Seven ways to help rural youth see a future back home.” In the issue, Marttila-Losure shares her own story of return:
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    The Knight Community Information Challenge requires a short initial application. Then selected applicants are invited to submit a longer, more detailed proposal. The initial application, due Feb. 27, must be completed online and gives us enough summary information to understand the idea. If we like your idea, you will be invited to complete a full proposal with more detail on how you plan to implement it and what it will cost.
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    Community foundations that win the Knight Community Information Challenge receive more than funding to develop their idea. Because news, information and digital opportunities represent a new frontier for many foundations, Knight provides important additional resources: ·      The Media Learning Seminar, a gathering of foundation leaders to explore ways to meet information needs. The next Media Learning Seminar is Feb. 20-21, 2012 in Miami and will be livestreamed to a wider audience. ·      Access to Knight circuit riders, who can provide technical support to guide grantmakers attempting information projects. ·      The Knight Community Information Challenge Boot Camp, hosted by Knight Digital Media Center at USC/Annenberg. This is an intensive, four-day seminar for managers of the winning projects to be held in September 2012.
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      Related  "Collaboration and Connection: How Foundations Partner Effectively to Address Their Community’s Information Needs" by FSG Social Impact Advisers in Publications As community foundations become active leaders in local news and information, many are learning they don’t need to go it alone. A variety of different partnership models are emerging and they are detailed in a new report by FSG for Knight Foundation.  The report is aimed primarily at foundations entering the news and information field, but other players, such as traditional news organizations, nonprofit community media organizations, and universities are prominent members of an emerging constellation of potential partners. Foundations, the report says, are learning that, “Partnerships are vital to their success, whether they are developing online platforms for community dialogue, financing new online professional news outlets or otherwise providing venues for community engagement about important issues affecting residents’ lives. “ For example, community media organizations may have more experience than the foundations in creating news content, while established news organizations can add reach as distribution partners. University partners might help with technology or students may help create content. Community nonprofits may bring valuable experience with community outreach.
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    Photo Credit: Noah Berger Thinking about applying to the Knight Community Information Challenge? Circuit riders may be able to help you and your foundatoin refine ideas or anticipate and surmount potential challenges. Circuit riders have expertise in a variety of areas, including project development, journalism, social media and digital technology. They are Knight Foundation contractors who can help you: -       Brainstorm your foundation’s idea for a community news or information project; -       Understand possible technology options for your project; -       Find out about projects that are similar to what you are proposing.
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    Only place-based foundations can apply for the Knight Community Information Challenge. If you are an innovator in local news, you may be able to approach local foundations about participating in the challenge to fund your idea. The Knight Community Information Challenge is part of Knight’s Media Innovation Initiative, which seeks to help communities meet their information needs in a democracy. Knight believes that community or other place-based foundations are set up to address core community problems – including news and information. In the Information Challenge, Knight is looking for projects that help fill community information needs, foster community engagement and help residents participate in the creation and sharing of news and information.
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    What is the Knight Community Information Challenge looking for? So far, the contest, offering matching funds to community and place-based foundations, has funded a wide variety of ideas – and Knight is always looking for fresh approaches. In general, Knight is looking for projects that help fill community information needs, foster community engagement and help residents participate in the creation and sharing of news and information.  It may be helpful to browse previous winners. But keep in mind that Knight is not wedded to any particular models of news and information. This challenge also is not designed to help community or place-based foundations improve their media relations and marketing, or expand their own Web sites, important though these might be. Here are examples of 10 types of projects the Challenge has funded:
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    What’s in a name? Plenty for one foundation that is revolutionizing its approach to leadership in its community. That’s why the Community Foundation of Greater South Wood County in central Wisconsin has a new name: Incourage Community Foundation. “Our work has grown and adapted to changes in our community in the last decade,” said Kelly Ryan Lucas, president and CEO of the foundation. “We’re really a community development organization that uses philanthropy as a tool to foster civic engagement and community improvement.”
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    The 2011 Knight Community Information Challenge Winners The Knight Community Information Challenge is open to all community foundations in North America. It is also open to geographically-oriented foundations that have a place-based focus similar to a community foundation. That’s because place-based foundations are in the best position to meet the core needs of their communities, including critical news and information needs.