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Apply Now: Grants For Community News Startups

WASHINGTON, D.C. – American University’s J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism is calling for a new round of grant proposals to fund community news start-ups around the country. Nine projects will each receive up to $25,000 in grants over two years.

The call for proposals comes on the heels of a new report issued by J-Lab and American University that describes how online community news sites are helping to create new forms of journalism. The journalism is characterized by a deliberate shift in the definition of objectivity, a drive for community conversation and discussion, and broader definitions of “news.”

The 2010 deadline for proposals under J-Lab’s “New Voices” program is March 1. Eligibility guidelines and the online application are available at

The nine projects to be funded in 2010 will join the 46 other New Voices start-ups that have received micro-grants since 2005. These projects have been selected from more than 1,200 proposals.

The New Voices community news grants are supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In addition to funding startup projects, J-Lab also supports citizen journalism and professional journalism projects with two e-learning Web sites. The Knight Citizen News Network ( offers help on legal risks, a blog with live legal advice and tutorials on such things as using Twitter and search engine optimization. The site offers help on such things as how to start your own community news site.

The 2010 New Voices projects will receive $17,000 the first year and are eligible for $8,000 in matching support the second year.

At least three of the 2010 grants are targeted for news initiatives in the 26 communities where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers, but projects from all parts of the U.S. are encouraged to apply.

“It’s remarkable to see the vision that people have for filling the information needs in their communities and the New Voices program helps make that vision a reality,” said Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab, which administers the program. J-Lab is a center of American University’s School of Communication.

“New Voices projects are among the 100 community news experiments Knight has funded in the search to use digital technology to help communities communicate better,” said Gary Kebbel, Knight’s Journalism Program Director.

Eligible to receive New Voices funding are 501(c)3 organizations and education institutions or individuals working under the sponsorship of a nonprofit fiscal agent. Only start-up projects may receive funding; ongoing efforts are not eligible unless they are proposing a new venture.

Projects can produce news and information for a geographic area, such as a town or county, or they can serve a community of interest.

All New Voices projects must develop a publicly accessible, regularly updated Web site to showcase their efforts and have a plan for generating a steady flow of fresh content year-round.

To receive information about New Voices, e-mail contact information and a request to subscribe to the J-Flash newsletter to

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950, the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit

J-Lab helps news organizations and citizens use digital technologies to develop new ways for people to participate in public life. It also administers the Knight Citizen News Network (, the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism,, and the McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs initiative (

American University’s School of Communication is a laboratory for professional education, communication research, and innovative production across the fields of journalism, film and media arts, and public communication. The school’s academic programs emphasize traditional skills and values while anticipating new technologies, new opportunities, and new audiences.

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