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New Voices: 10 New Citizen Media Ideas Are Funded

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Ten new ideas for amplifying community news will receive $12,000 New Voices grants to launch news sites for under-covered communities, embed TV reporters in neighborhoods, network regional radio programs, and map the local impact of climate change, J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism announced today.

“These award winners are embarking on new ways to harness the collective wisdom in their areas and diversify input on local and regional issues,” said Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab, which administers the grants.

With the 2007 awardees, a total of 30 community news start-ups have been selected to receive New Voices funding from among 533 applicants since 2005. This year J-Lab received 105 proposals.

“Citizens are increasingly using digital media to enrich community, enhance public discourse and enliven democracy, and the New Voices grantees are helping to pave the way,” said Gary Kebbel, journalism program officer for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which funds the New Voices initiative.

“I am always struck by the ingenuity of these projects, which stems from an intense desire to create or protect a sense of community through communication,” said New Voices Advisory Board member Donna Reed, vice president of news and multimedia strategy, Media General Publishing Division.

“We, in media, should draw from these ideas because they are all about the voiceless being heard.”

The grant winners will receive $12,000 to start up their projects. They will be eligible for $5,000 follow-up grants next year if they successfully launch and supply matching funding. The deadline for 2008 proposals is Feb. 20, 2008.

The 2007 New Voices grant recipients are:

  • Vermont Climate Witness. To create a map-based interactive experience to track how residents see climate change affecting the state’s economy, from fall foliage and maple syrup to skiing. Tamarack Productions, a nonprofit environmental awareness organization, will work with the Vermont Natural Resources Council to develop user content and create Google Map mash-ups to help users visualize weather data and real-time weather indicators.  
  • Northwest Community Radio Network Collaborative Newscast. To launch an hour-long, weekly newscast culled from the best public affairs programming produced by more than 40, often-isolated community, college and independent radio stations throughout the Pacific Northwest. Seattle-based Reclaim the Media will use the newscast to anchor a new content-sharing network that will expand the pool of regional news and programming for local audiences.  
  • Saint Paul City Newsdesk. To create and pay for a network of citizen journalists to cover neighborhood and municipal news for use by media outlets throughout the Twin Cities. Network stories, videos and radio pieces will be published on the St. Paul Neighborhood Network cable-access television web site and on the Twin Cities Daily Planet site.
  • To create a weekly cyber newspaper built from citizen-generated content for the Chappaqua area in Westchester County, N.Y., which has lost its local newspaper. The project is spearheaded by local volunteers under the auspices of the Friends of the Chappaqua Library.  
  • Neighbor to Neighbor. Cambridge Community Television will embed citizen journalists in each of the five neighborhoods of Cambridge, Mass., to report on local issues and events, feature local viewpoints, and facilitate participation in local issues. Five neighborhood segments will be produced and edited into a monthly 30-minute program to air four times each week, streamed live on CCTV’s web site and archived. Segments will be incorporated in the Cambridge Media Map.  
  • Bilingual Interactive Environmental Journalism. To develop bilingual news and interactive narratives for to help the Spanish-speaking residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin understand environmental threats to the area. The Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada-Reno will spearhead content creation and solicitation through its Graduate Program in Interactive Environmental Journalism, aided by local newspaper partners.
  • Neo-News Network. To build a news and information hotline for Gary, Ind., accessed via web, phone, mobile text messaging and mailing lists to supplement available media. Content will be generated by students and young professionals and coordinated by the Central District Organization, a group led by young professionals who have returned to Gary to live.
  • Fulton Hill Interactive Portal. To train local citizen journalists and build a news and information portal for Fulton Hill, a low-income neighborhood in Richmond, Va. Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Mass Communications will work with the Fulton Hill Neighborhood Resource Center to help local residents produce stories, photos, audio, video and a Fulton Hill wiki.
  • Building Blocks. To launch a news and information site to inform New York City residents about major real estate development projects that affect their neighborhoods. Spearheaded by the Pratt Center for Community Development, the project will initially provide news articles, Q&As, public hearing calendars and discussion forums focusing on the redevelopment of Coney Island in Brooklyn, the reuse of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx, and the expansion of Columbia University onto a 17-block area of Harlem in Manhattan.  
  • News Desk on Access SF. To train San Francisco nonprofits to produce a monthly community news program with a neighborhood focus for cable access television and video blogs. Five special interest desks will produce stories targeting youth, LGBT issues, arts and culture, age and disabilities, and multi-lingual stories. Each special interest desk will have its own video blog, supported by Access SF, the city’s community television corporation.

“The winning grant applications show, once again, that communities aren’t waiting for mainstream media to do the job; they’re moving ahead with their own creative ideas,” said Peggy Kuhr, a New Voices advisor from the University of Kansas.

Advisor Peter Levine sees the New Voices grantees contributing to an active civic renewal movement in the U.S. “Dissatisfied with formal institutions, citizens are working together on community problems, building new associations – and creating their own news media.”

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

  • Charles B. Fancher, president, Fancher Associates Inc., Annapolis, MD.
  • Jane Brown, executive director, Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.
  • Bill Gannon, Director of Online Production & Programming, Lucasfilm Ltd.
  • Bruce Koon, former executive news editor, Knight Ridder Digital.
  • Peggy Kuhr, Knight Chair on the Press, Leadership and Community, University of Kansas, Lawrence.
  • Peter Levine, director of CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement), University of Maryland, College Park.
  • Donna M. Reed, vice president of news and multimedia, Media General.
  • Adam Clayton Powell III, director of the Integrated Media Systems Center, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California.
  • Thomas Kunkel, dean, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, College Park.
  • Jan Schaffer, executive director, J-Lab.

Project updates will be posted at For more information, subscribe to J-Lab’s newsletter online or by e-mailing
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. The Knight Foundation especially supports ideas and projects that create transformational change.

J-Lab, a center of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, helps news organizations and citizens use new media technologies to create fresh ways for people to participate in public life. It also administers the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism and the andKnight Citizen News Network [] web sites.

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