It’s official: The William Penn Foundation has approved a $2.4 million grant for a Networked Journalism Collaborative project in Philadelphia.
A national search for a CEO to lead and further roll out the initiative begins in January with the goal of having a leader in place by spring.
Key input for this project came from J-Lab’s research and mapping of the Philadelphia news ecosystem in late 2009. We found a rich brew of media assets already in place, supplemented by a blogosphere of 260 blogs and websites – more than 60 of which had what we called “some journalistic DNA.”
In April, we released our report, recommending the creation of an independent news website focusing on pubic affairs coverage in a half dozen key areas, supplemented by broad collaborations with existing news sites such as PlanPhilly.com, thenotebook.org, Metropolis plus the city’s robust creative technology community. More research and planning was undertaken by OMG Center for Collaborative Learning.
In the last several months, a lot of collaboration has already begun occurring. Even more is being juiced by J-Lab’s recently announced Philadelphia Enterprise Reporting Awards to jumpstart 14 in-depth reporting projects that involve collaborations between news entities. This program is administered by J-Lab and also funded by WPF.
Philadelphia has become a hotbed of journalistic networking and innovation. In addition to the newly funded project, WHYY in November launched NewsWorks.org, a broadly interactive and collaborative local news initiative. Greg Osberg, CEO and publisher of Philadelphia Media Network Inc., the new owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com, is opening doors to new partnerships. He said in November he wants to launch a media incubator inside the iconic white tower on North Broad Street with co-working space for media creators. He also aspires to form content partnerships with universities and niche websites. At the same time, Jon Paton’s Journal-Register Co. in September announced it was launching a news and advertising portal to serve the city.
The William Penn Foundation awarded the new $2.4 million, three-year grant to Temple University, which for now will create a university center to incubate a new organization that is expected to produce original journalism, aggregate other news and information, and develop ways to support the city’s growing group of news websites.
The foundation has a deep commitment to the civic health of the Philadelphia region and a passion for supporting more public interest reporting. But it also wants to nurture the growth, collaboration and sustainability of the players in the city’s flourishing news ecosystem.
The center will operate under the auspices of Temple’s School of Communications and Theater, led by interim dean Tom Jacobson. Down the road, it may spin off to become a separate nonprofit entity.
Temple, meanwhile, has been incubating a lot of entrepreneurial news activity. In addition to alum sites such as TechnicallyPhilly.com and NeastPhilly.com, it houses the Philadelphia Initiative for Journalistic Innovation, shepherded by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Jim MacMillan. And Professor George Miller runs a blog for Entrepreneurial Journalists of Philadelphia.
We are eager to see how this all plays out. And if you know of any good CEO candidates for this new venture, please pass the word.