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New Voices: 10 Citizen Media Experiments to Launch

College Park, Md. – Ten New Voices award winners from across the United States will receive $12,000 grants to launch innovative local media ventures, J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism announced today.

The 10 were selected from 243 proposals seeking inaugural New Voices funding, said Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab, which administers the program, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The winners, ranging from the Friends of the Deerfield Library in New Hampshire to the Mid-Columbia Centro Cultural in Hood River, Ore., demonstrated both the goal of applying the values of fact-based journalism in pursuit of news, and a realistic plan to find a way to keep the operation going after its launch.

Ten more ventures will be funded next year. The 2006 deadline will be next Feb. 8.

” From recent immigrants to long-time rural or urban residents, people feel left out of the news,” said New Voices Advisory Board member Peggy Kuhr, of the University of Kansas. “New Voices is meeting needs for intensely local information.”

“There was passion in what these community news ventures said they wanted to accomplish,” added board member Bruce Koon, of Knight Ridder.

Grant recipients for 2005 include:

  • The Philbrick James Forum, from the Friends of the Deerfield Library in Deerfield, N.H. To create a Web site to report on local news and activities, exchange opinions and showcase news, fiction, poetry, cartoons and photography from the 4,000 residents of this growing rural community. A quarterly newspaper will cover seasonal topics, including local elections and school issues, and highlight the best contributions posted to the Web site.
  • KRFP News, from Radio Free Moscow Inc. in Moscow, Idaho. To train citizen journalists to produce a daily half-hour news program for this new, low-power FM radio station. A companion Web site will allow listeners to tune in to the latest broadcast in streaming audio, download podcasts of previous shows, and hear unaired, expanded reports. A Web-based message board and a 24-hour phone line will allow listeners to sound off on the issues and suggest new stories to cover.
  • Hartsville Messenger expanded community coverage, from the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication and IFRA’s Newsplex in Columbia, S.C. USC students and Newsplex advisors will team with the twice-weekly Hartsville Messenger to recruit and train citizen journalists to contribute reports, moblogs, video and audio to either a new or improved Web site as part of a pilot program that will result in a how-to guide for smaller news organizations seeking to embrace citizen journalism.
  • Noticias Tuyas, (“Your News”) from the Mid-Columbia Centro Cultural in Hood River, Ore. To launch a weekly half-hour, prime-time, bilingual news program, broadcast on low-power FM radio station, Radio Tierra 95.1 FM KZAS, that will target the Latino residents who comprise more than 25 percent of the community. Broadcasts will feature local news, opinions written and read by community members, and educational forums with a Latino perspective on the news. Community members will be trained to research, write radio scripts, and edit audio.
  • Loisaida Speaks, from the Lower East Side Girls Club in New York City. To train 32 young women, aged 15-21, to produce weekly podcasts on community news and issues as a first step in building a network of teen podcast correspondents to cover local issues and events. The Lower East Side Girls Club serves predominantly black and Latina girls from low-income neighborhoods.
  • The kaPow! Web site, from kaPow! Inc. in Philadelphia. To create a “virtual home” on the Web for hip-hop culture in Philadelphia and the mid-Atlantic region. The Web site will provide news, audio broadcasts, bulletin boards, events listings and directories of artists and services. A “creative commons” space will allow artists to post their latest songs in MP3 format, barter talent and get feedback from their audience.
  • Loudoun Forward in Loudoun County, Va. To the emerging Loudon Forward “public think tank” to create a hyperlocal civic “tool set” that includes a printed publication, a Web site and Weblog, an e-newsletter and public forums to help residents in the nation’s fastest-growing county identify the forces that are shaping their lives and make better public decisions. A newsprint magazine will dispassionately probe such topics as housing, growth, economic development, racial diversity, conservation, crime, education and health care. Citizen contributions will be made through the Weblog, topic-based town hall meetings and the electronic newsletter.
  • Twin Cities Newswire, from the Twin Cities Media Alliance and KFAI-FM community radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul. To create a Web site to launch during the 2005 municipal elections for community media outlets and citizen journalists to post and share print, audio and video news stories focused on the racially and ethnically diverse population of the Twin Cities. Inviting content on such topics as immigration, police/community relations, public safety, environment, the site will post stories from individuals and enable minority and ethnic journalists to reach a larger audience.
  • The Madison Commons Project, from the Center for Communication and Democracy at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. To create “boot camps” to train citizen reporters and university students in micro-reporting for 12 mostly minority neighborhoods and to establish a model “community information commons.” The Web site will include content organized by neighborhood, region and issue and will be produced by citizen reporters and community and ethnic publications. The Capital Times newspaper will regularly feature news reports produced by the project.
  • North Lawndale Community News Blog, from Strategic Human Services in Chicago. To launch a community news Weblog to encourage citizen journalism from the mostly African-American residents of one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. The blog will cover community tensions, concerns over gentrification and other local issues through print, audio and photos. It will be linked to the biweekly North Lawndale Community News.

“Reading the applications was like peering into the future of citizen journalism,” said Donna Reed of Media General. “The ideas are stunning in their simplicity and yet huge in their impact on the future of journalism.”

” The 10 New Voices projects … should catalyze a significant movement,” said Peter Levine, of The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at the University of Maryland.

Participating in the selection process were the New Voices Advisory Board:

  • Charles B. Fancher, president, Fancher Associates Inc., Annapolis, MD.
  • Jeff Jarvis, president and creative director,, founder of the blog
  • Bruce Koon, executive news editor, Knight Ridder Digital and board member, Online News Association.
  • Peggy Kuhr, Knight Chair on the Press, Leadership and Community, the University of Kansas, Lawrence
  • Peter Levine, deputy director of CIRCLE at the University of Maryland, College Park
  • Katherine McAdams, associate professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Adam Clayton Powell III, Director, Integrated Media Systems Center, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California
  • Donna M. Reed, vice president of news, Media General
  • Thomas Kunkel, dean, Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
  • Jan Schaffer, executive director, J-Lab.

Grantees will be considered for $5,000 second-year grants if they successfully launch their projects and supply matching funding. Project updates will be posted Deadline for 2006 proposals will be February 8, 2006.

Later this spring, J-Lab will launch, a how-to site that will provide beginner-friendly training on planning, building and promoting hyperlocal news sites. To subscribe to J-Lab’s newsletter, email

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 helps news organizations and citizens use new media technologies to create fresh ways for people to participate in public life and also administers the Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism. It is a center of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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