College Park, Md – J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism will launch a pioneering program to seed community news ventures around the country with a new $1 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Over the next two years, the “New Voices” project will help fund the start-up of 20 micro-local, news projects; support them with an educational Web site, in collaboration with the Poynter Institute’s News University; and help foster their sustainability through small second-year grants.
Under the grant, J-Lab, a center of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, will call for proposals from nonprofit and education institutions with new ideas for distributing news and information. A national Advisory Board will award seed grants of $12,000 to $17,000 to help create new types of self-sustaining community media projects.
The Web site will provide training in online content creation, production and revenue generation and help spread core journalism values to the new efforts.
“Daily, we see citizens contributing in significant ways to news in the public interest,’’ said Jan Schaffer, J-Lab executive director. “They are keeping mainstream journalists and public officials honest, as well as reporting community news that falls below the radar of daily news outlets. The New Voices project will enhance this capacity and help create exciting new opportunities for participating in civic life.’‘
The grant also continues the two-year-old Batten Awards and Symposium for Innovations in Journalism, which reward creative news practices that engage people in public issues with a $10,000 Grand Prize and $5,000 in other prizes.
“The newest forms of news serve us best when they honor the oldest values of good journalism,” said Eric Newton, Knight Foundation director of journalism initiatives. “We hope this experiment helps us find new ways for people to engage in an accurate, fair, contextual search for the truth.”
“The Internet has created the opportunity for alternatives to mainstream journalism,” said Dean Tom Kunkel of the Merrill College of Journalism. “New Voices will be an exciting effort to incubate a new kind of community news, and in the process encourage greater civic engagement.”
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.
J-Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park, helps news organizations use new media technologies to create fresh ways for people to participate in public life. It is a spin-off of the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, which helped support 120 pilot projects that fostered civic engagement since 1993.