News Leadership 3.0

Posts tagged with: Community Foundations

January 13, 2010

Community foundations invest in news and information

The Knight Foundation’s Community Information Challenge grants $4.3 million to 24 more projects that are sponsored by local foundations. Here’s an overview of the projects.

Earlier this week, Amy Gahran posted “Tips for seeking local news funding from community foundations.” Knight Foundation just announced 24 new grants to that shed more light on the types of news and information projects Knight and local foundations think have value and may have legs. Knight and a local foundation provide matching funds for these projects. (Disclosure: I will work with some of these grantees as a consultant to Knight.)

Established news outfits in these communities might want to explore collaborations with these projects, perhaps giving wider distribution to some of their content.

The projects fall in three broad categories:

1. Professional journalism projects. These projects will employ journalists to produce professional news content. Several focus on state or regional issues such as statehouse coverage rather than on local communities. Examples: Connecticut’s, news service for the statehouse, Florida Independent (Sarasota area), Health News Florida (Southern Florida), a public interest news service covering the New Jersey statehouse), WyoFile, Write for Arkansas.

2. Citizen contributor projects. These projects will engage citizens in producing news and information. Most are local and/or target a specific group, such as youth or seniors as major contributors and users. Examples: Gables Home Page (Coral Gables, Florida), Neighborhood News bureaus in six Detroit neighborhoods, TheDuSu (Duluth, Minn. - Superior Wisc.), Beyond Bullets (New York City,  Digital Media Center in Akron, Ohio. Also, the Chicago Community Trust will use its grant to give minigrants to projects that strengthen the news and information ecoysystem in that city.

3. Civic engagement projects. These projects provide information and actively seek citizen engagement outside traditional news frames. Some are issue specific, such as environment, and some are specific to a place. Examples of environmental projects: GreenSpace in Southeast Michigan, Envision Bay Area in California, and the River Partnership in several states along the Mississippi River. Place based projects: Data visualization in Massachusetts; We the People forums in North Florida; an education awareness program for Latinos in Boulder, Colo.; a public forum partnership with NPR in Rhode Island; Be Counted Be Represented to encourage Latinos to respond to the 2010 Census in Los Angeles, as well as projects in Chautauqua County, NY; central Pennsylvania; South Woods County, Wisc.; and Alexandria, Virginia.

Here are fuller descriptions of the projects.

February 27, 2010

LIVEBLOG Mar 1-2: Community foundations, media/tech experts explore local info needs

Community foundations are a growing source of funding for local news and media. By learning how community foundations work, what they want, and how to work with them, journalists can get help launching or grow local news startups.

On Mar. 1-2, 2010, Amy Gahran will liveblog a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation “Media Learning Seminar” where community and place-based foundation leaders will meet with journalism and technology experts to explore community information needs.

Here’s our liveblog…

Presenter list

Twitter: Monitor the hashtag #infoneeds

More on the Knight Foundation’s community foundation efforts:

March 11, 2010

Year of the Pay Wall? Hardly. 2010 may be the Year of Participation

2010 was supposed to be the year of the online pay wall in the mainstream print news industry. But so far, we’ve seen little action on that front. (Among other things, the impending arrival of the iPad and the increasing urgency of mobile may be drawing news industry attention away from the idea that they might be able to charge people for access to content on their Web site.) At the same time, a different ethic may be taking hold. Happily, this one seems better suited to the Web.

It’s the ethic of participation and sharing.

A few examples from the past week or so:

ProPublica’s Reporting Recipe - ProPublica posted its Reporting Recipe, detailing how ProPublica and The Los Angeles Times pulled off an investigation that discovered serious breakdowns in the state of California’s regulation of nurses.

From the intro: “We realize that many newsrooms face competing priorities and limited resources, so we’re making our reporting recipe public ...  We understand that many reporters and members of the public will not be able to dedicate the same resources. Still, there are many things you can do to get a good understanding of how well your state regulators are performing.”

The note also includes contact info for ProPublica staffers and lets users sign up for a conference call about the investigation. Wow. What a gift!

Open311 - The cities of San Francisco and Washington, D.C. boosted collaboration on a shared, open standard for municipal information with the announcement that those cities would launch the Open311 API within weeks. 311 systems enable citizens to report problems such as pot holes or graffiti, to government via Web or texting. The systems promise to give officials access to more information and to make them more responsive without the need for more inspectors. The idea of the Open311 initiative is to give cities a boost in developing their systems, to facilitate improvements by the development community, and to give systems the capacity to work together (jargon alert: This is often referred to as making them “interoperable”).

Social media editors - Of course, sharing is alive and well on social media. Encouragingly, the American Journalism Review reports, that more mainstream news organizations are assigning staff to focus on social networks.  I hope these moves help traditional organizations move past their view that social networks are a one-way delivery system and I hope the journalists in these new roles invest some time in figuring out how do a better job of tending online comments and fostering a worthwhile discussion. Other sites manage to do this, and it’s a mystery to my why more news outlets don’t seize this opportunity to engage with their users.

Twitter - Twitter is my preferred social network, and, as I have pointed out, it’s my most significant source of news and information about topics I care about. Alberto IbargŁen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, emphasized a similar idea last week at Knight’s recent Media Learning Seminar for leaders of the nation’s community foundations, many of whom are stepping up to fund local and state news and information projects. IbargŁen noted that he’d heard some at the conference express skepticism that information delivered by new digital technology “couldn’t be taken seriously.” He showed slides of tweets by Jay Rosen and others to reinforce the idea that people are sharing serious information and discussion on social platforms. “They are real and they are useful and they are how we will continue to deliver information.” (Here’s the video of IbargŁen’s comments. He talks about Twitter from 8:00 through 11:14.) (Disclosure: I do some consulting with Knight Foundation.)

Reporter as host - John Temple, editor of the Peer News local start up in Honolulu, reinforced the idea of sharing and participation very aptly in job descriptions for the newsroom staff members formerly known as reporters. “Today it’s my pleasure to announce the names of the first people who’ll be joining the service as “reporter and host.” Yes, you read that correctly. The job profile for reporters at Peer News includes the role of host, reflecting our commitment to community engagement as a central part of the reporters’ role,” Temple said on his blog.

Local news partnerships
- The Pro journalism vs. Am(ateur) journalism argument has taken up a lot of bandwidth. That’s changing. Now it’s about Pro AND Am, working together to cover the news. Pro-am efforts are merging on many fronts. More on that in my comments on the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism‘s annual State of the News Media report, to be released Monday.

What is your news organization doing to foster sharing and participation online? Please post your ideas in the comments. Thanks.

Bonus link: Yesterday, Josh Stearns posted this list of collaborations among news organizations.

March 21, 2010

Community Information Challenge Boot Camp: Liveblog, video stream

This week, the Knight Digital Media Center @ USC Annenberg is hosting a boot camp for local news and information projects funded via Knight Foundation’s Community Information Challenge. Representatives of several place-based foundations will be learning and brainstorming on how to launch and run local projects under this initiative.

KDMC will be liveblogging this event today through March 25. Here’s the liveblog, and also information on our live video stream of some bootcamp events…


We’ll live stream most of the conference. That includes these segments, and much of the rest of the program (times are Pacific):

Monday, March 22

For participants who cannot download/use MS Word or Xcel spreadsheet documents, they are available on Google docs. But PLEASE FIRST watch this short video tutorial to learn how to make your own copy of these documents, so other people have clean originals to work from.

Tuesday, March 23

Wednesday, March 24

February 10, 2012

From news publisher to convener: Making the shift to build community in Iowa

By Amy Gahran

A regional economic development initiative in Iowa has captured the imagination of Chuck Peters, longtime head of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Getting directly involved meant facing a quandary: How could a news organization consistently support this initiative without becoming a crusader for it? The answer: become a convener of the public discussion…

A stretch of East-Central Iowa (around Iowa City and Cedar Rapids) has long been home to a unique convergence of business, technology, higher education, science, and the arts. All these forces recently banded together under the Iowa’s Creative Corridor initiative to work to enhance the region’s collective competitiveness.

Chuck Peters, president and CEO of The Gazette Co. (which publishes the daily Cedar Rapids Gazette and runs the local ABC TV affiliate station KCRG), decided to get his company involved. For about two decades he’d been discussing “systems thinking” and community development with Les Garner, former president of Cornell College and current president of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. And he’d also been working with John Lohman of the local Corridor Business Journal.

“Then we had that big flood here. Everybody was focused on cleaning up their own mess. John and I said we seemed to be the primary ones who cared about future of the region as a region. So we decided to join forces and try to promote the region.”

So the two media companies began a quasi-formal relationship with the Corridor Business Alliance, and formed†Corridor2020—highlighting the alliance of 13 local economic development groups. Peters and Lohman began attending meetings and providing some money and in-kind support for the alliance’s efforts. Peters also summarized a major report advising the region on branding and development opportunities, and wrote an internal guidance document for Source Media Group (the trade name for the combined news and sales operations of the Gazette and KCRG). Lohman wrote an FAQ about the ICC initiative.

...Those are a lot of dense, weighty documents flying around, mostly talking about how to brand the region. But branding is no trivial matter.

“I’ve spent most of the last week explaining to people, if you think of branding as meaning a logo and advertising, that won’t help us much,” said Peters. “In the big picture, we actually need to develop regional capabilities for being collaborative and innovative. We can’t accomplish that without a shared vision of what that means.”

Defining what role a news company could or should play in moving the ICC initiative forward was a challenge. “How could we actively work to foster regional collaboration and innovation? As opposed to what we had been doing, which was to be a coconspirator in a culture of passivity,” said Peters.

“We had to change some basic things about the way we do our work. We’ve always been distanced observers lobbing articles into the community, often framing issues as contention of horserace. That just discourages people from engaging.”

The Gazette Co. decided to become a convener of public discussion around topics related to regional collaboration and development. This means planning and participating in public forums and other events, and producing new kinds of content.

“The news industry is so locked into the format of articles and video clips, but those are such incredibly ineffective tools when you’re trying to help a community understand an issue and come to consensus,” he said.

The newspaper and TV station are beginning to experiment with techniques used by the Khan Academy, such as using mindmaps as a way to illuminate connections between various issues and perspectives—and also to probe not just what people in the region want, but why they want it.

“It’s amazing to have these conversations with our community,” said Peters. “Like if we’re discussing education: Someone will say ‘we must have great schools.’ OK, why? What do we want great schools to do for us? Unfold the potential of each child. Again, why? Is it because it’s morally correct, or because we want to have a kick-ass competitive economy? Well, we want both—but now that we’re clear on why we want great schools, that makes it easier to think creatively about how to achieve that goal.”

The thinking of Peters and others involved in the ICC initiative was spurred in part by Collaborate: Leading Regional Innovation Clusters, a 2010 report by the U.S. Council on Competitiveness. While this report says little about the role of media organizations in regional development, there is a clear business motive for media companies to get involved. The report observes that “broadcast and media markets rely on a regional marketplace.”

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is a partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The Center is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

February 28, 2012

Philadelphia: Neil Budde takes helm of emerging local journalism network

By Amy Gahran

After a year-long search, Temple University has hired Neil Budde to lead the Philadelphia-area news and information collaborative funded by the William Penn Foundation. As the founding CEO, Budde says his job is to “create a unified vision” for this network…

Most recently, Budde was executive vice president at ePals (a K-12 social learning network) and president of DailyMe (a startup for personalized news and information). Previously, Budde was editor-in-chief of Yahoo News, as well as founding editor and publisher of The Wall Street Journal Online (

“What interests me about this opportunity is that there is a rich ecosystem of folks doing lots of different forms of journalism and local information in the Greater Philadelphia Area,” said Budde. “In addition to the mainstream media, there are many organizations covering special topics—sites like Plan Philly, Technically Philly, and more. I think we can pull together some of those efforts into a more cohesive network, and support them with technology, ad sales, and business operations to help make them more financially viable.”

In addition to fostering the emerging vibrant media ecosystem, Budde hopes that the network will encourage new voices to participate: “People who may want to do something like what those other sites are doing, but don’t know how to get started or don’t have any infrastructure or support.”

One of the initial obstacles for this effort is its name. So far, it’s been called the Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network (PPIIN)—which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

“I know, I know,” said Budde. “I’m working on it. I have a document on my computer where I’m collecting ideas, and I’m bouncing them off a few people. I’ve had some good responses to a few. I want make sure the name fits the shared vision that we’re moving toward fairly quickly for what this network will be.”

On a more practical level, Budde is working on setting up the network as a nonprofit corporation. “One of challenges is the way we’re currently operating, under the Temple University School of Communications and Theater, that makes it harder for us to hire people. Breaking the network off as a separate 501(c)(3) corporation will allow us to bring people on board.”

Creating the separate nonprofit entity also will help the network diversify its revenue sources. “We’re getting great support from the William Penn Foundation, but our intent is to find other backers and supporters. Philly has a lot of opportunities in that regard,” said Budde.

The collaborative journalism network is emerging at an especially troubled time for the city’s mainstream media landscape.

The Philadelphia Media Network (which operates the city’s two daily papers, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News, as well as may be sold for the fourth time in six years. There are allegations that the newspaper’s management has been muzzling reporters from covering the negotiations.

NPR reports that the group of investors currently seeking to buy PMN includes “two of the region’s most connected Democrats: former mayor, governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Ed Rendell and New Jersey political boss George Norcross III. Both men and their associates have been subjects of intense reporting by the papers. Other investors include a major developer and a leading owner of Philadelphia’s National Hockey League team, the Flyers.”

Budde is watching these developments closely. “Certainly, one opportunity for our network is to emulate a model like ProPublica to collaborate with existing mainstream media outlets for certain kinds of coverage. But whether we can or will do that depends on the people involved,” he said. “I know several people at PMN and I’d love to work on them, but it’ll take time for them to sort out their future. In the long run, this may open additional wallets for local coverage—who knows?”

To gather ideas and context, Budde is talking to other local news and information projects from around the country, many of which are supported by community foundations. “Every community is unique, and what works in one place may not work in another, but there’s a big base of experience out there we can learn from,” he said.

Budde is actively soliciting ideas and context about how to help a local news and information ecosystem thrive. He invites people to contact him by e-mail or on Twitter (@neilbudde) to engage him on these topics.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is a partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The Center is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

March 13, 2012

Mobile skills: New gateway drug to community engagement

By Amy Gahran

This year, smartphones are beginning to comprise the majority of U.S. mobile handsets in use. So mobile skills are becoming crucial for anyone who wants to stay informed and connected, or to access jobs or services. The catch is, it’s often not easy for consumers to learn how to use mobile devices well.

Partnerships between public libraries, community news/information projects, and other community stakeholders could play a key role in helping to bridge the mobile skills gap—while engaging communities in the process…

Digital media is the channel of choice for most new community news and information projects, mainly because it’s cheaper and easier to create a digital presence than a print or broadcast product. Most of these projects focus on websites intended to be viewed on a computer. But in the next couple of years, mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, and whatever comes next) are expected to become the most common way that people access the internet in the U.S.

Recently the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation held a conference exploring the future of libraries in the digital world. Watching Knight’s collection of video interviews with eight public library directors who attended this conference, I was struck by how often the themes of an education mission, digital literacy, and getting out into the community were mentioned—yet mobile technology was not mentioned by any of the library directors.

In fact, only James Crawford, the engineering director for the Google Books project, mentioned mobile technology in his interview from that conference: “Tablets and mobile devices allow libraries to extend their services out into the community,” he observed.

For more than a decade, public libraries and schools have been key community resources for free access to the internet via computers. And for many people this access has been a lifeline for access to jobs, education, information, connection with friends and family, and more.

Libraries are now extending this digital literacy mission to take computer skills training beyond the library and into the community—by holding training sessions at community centers, assisted living or senior centers, and elsewhere, often in cooperation with other community organizations and institutions. But this approach requires buying computers, arranging for mobile access to wifi, transporting all that gear around, and getting it set up and running.

That costs a lot of money, requires finagling with setting up wifi networks, and it overlooks a key opportunity: Teaching community members how to make the best use of the mobile devices many of them already have in their hands—and which many people consider indispensable to daily life.

Mobile skills don’t necessarily replace computer skills, at least not yet. But imparting good mobile skills has the engagement advantage of helping people realize greater immediate benefits from the devices and connectivity they already own—and that they carry everywhere they go. They won’t have to buy a computer, get broadband at home, or make a trip to a library or community center in order to put their newfound mobile skills to good use—or to improve their lives and communities in the process.

Consequently, mobile skills training might be a powerful “gateway drug” for community engagement. Especially if it’s focused on using web-enabled phones to meet pressing real needs, rather than more abstract learning.

For instance, many consumers don’t know how much about how to use the web or e-mail on their smartphone or tablet—or even on a feature phone, since many feature phones are capable of web and e-mail access. Yet the mobile web and e-mail can be key tools to access to news, information, jobs, social media, and more.

So a mobile training session geared toward, say, using your cell phone to find a job might include teaching:

  • How to use e-mail on your phone. (Employers and interactive systems must have a way to contact you.)
  • How to bookmark some key mobile-friendly job and networking sites on your phone. (, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Guidance on setting up your profile and resumé on these services. (This may need to be done on a computer, but generally you can at least handle the basics via a mobile web browser, and finish later on a computer.)
  • Tips on searching for and responding to job listings from your phone.

Note that all of these job-search skills also have other uses. If you know how to use e-mail on your phone, a world of digital interaction and connection becomes open to you—as well as the ability to subscribe to e-mail alerts and newsletters (perhaps from a community news or information providers, or your local library or school).

And if you know how to bookmark mobile-friendly job sites in your mobile browser, you can bookmark any mobile web site—such as a blog run by a local community organization, or a health information resource.

And if you learn how to fill out a mobile form to create a user account on a job site, you learn a basic skill for interacting with any digital service—such as social media, or subscribing to alerts from your local government.

And if you learn how to search a jobs site from your phone, you’ve learned the basic concept of doing any kind of web-based search on your phone.

And if you learn how the computer-based web and mobile web (or mobile apps) can complement each other, what their respective strengths and weaknesses are, you provide a motivation for people who might only have a cell phone to also get a tablet or computer, so they can have expanded access.

Positioning training to align with the community’s priorities is key to demonstrating its relevance and increasing its appeal. Consider which approach might be more effective to get the attention of community members: a generic class in computer skills (especially when many people might not have their own computer or broadband internet), vs. how to use your phone to find a job.

Once people get started with digital interaction and media, on any device, they’re likely to keep using it and build upon that base of knowledge—and to teach others what they’ve learned.

Community news and information outlets, libraries, schools and other key players with a mission to serve their communities should consider adding mobile skills training to their outreach efforts. One resource advantage of this approach is that you probably won’t have to buy as much equipment, or mess around with network access so much. However, you will have to invest in learning the basics of a few different kinds of mobile operating systems, and learn about the various kinds of e-mail service and basic data plans that wireless carriers offer.

Aside from mobile skills training, community members probably will also want help understanding what they can and can’t do with their phone without incurring extra fees. Asking people to bring a current cell phone bill into the library or other public venue, so you can see the kind of plan they’re on and look up details online, can help people gain confidence to do more with the phones they already have.

As low-cost Android tablets (such as the Kindle Fire) increase in popularity, it may make sense to also offer training in using the web browser and apps on these mobile devices, since they can do much more than just let people buy and read books. With a larger screen size than mobile phones, these devices can also be a great way to showcase community news and information resources intended for the computer-based web.

For any mobile training, a printed list of free public wifi hotspots in your community and their hours of availability can help people with wifi-enabled devices (but limited or no carrier data plans) find the access points most convenient to them. This can be especially valuable as many libraries are having to curtail operating hours and close branches due to funding challenges; and many nonprofits and community news outlets aren’t able to sustain multiple physical locations.

Finally, making sure your own digital presence is mobile friendly and accessible through a variety of mobile channels (mobile web, e-mail, and social media are the basics—although text messaging interaction and mobile apps might make sense in some cases) is another important way to build on the initial engagement of training. This is how you can help the people your train stay connected with your organization and mission.

What it means to be digitally literate is changing fast. Training is a powerful type of engagement, but it must keep pace with the times and make full use of available resources. Once you have the attention of your community, where they are, at any time, you have even more opportunity to help them improve their lives and enhance their individual and collective opportunities. Perhaps even more important, right now, than training them how to use a computer mouse.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

Get in touch with Michele at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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