Is This the Future of Chicago Journalism? | Bleader

Friday, November 6, 2009

Is This the Future of Chicago Journalism?

Posted By on 11.06.09 at 12:22 PM

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The Chicago Community Trust is scattering half a million dollars in seed money to support 12 innovative local journalism projects. It's a new program, Community News Matters, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation ($250,000) and the John D. and Catherine T.MacArthur Foundation ($100,000) as well as CCT; spokesperson Vivian Vahlberg says satisfying all 86 grant applications would have required $5.7 million. "The amazing thing is there were so few dogs among the proposals," she tells me. "So many good ones, so many interesting ones."

Here's what Thursday's news release has to say about the winning grants:

Projects designed to improve the flow of information in high-need communities

Columbia College Chicago

Nonprofit/For Profit


For a Columbia College/Chicago Tribune collaboration using student and professional journalists to cover government meetings, businesses, churches and other institutions in Austin, with content distributed via a new Web site (, Tribune's ChicagoNow blog site, a mobile edition, a newsletter and text messaging

Gapers Block Media, LLC

For Profit Business


To increase the amount of neighborhood-based, original local coverage on Gapers Block, with priority given to stories about underserved communities and issues that affect them

Loyola University Chicago (School of Communication)



For a partnership between Loyola and Benito Juarez Community Academy to train high school and college journalists to cover Pilsen, with content distributed via a new Web site, "Adentro de Pilsen" (Inside Pilsen), a Spanish language news magazine and (potentially) hand-held mobile devices

South Suburban Publishing LLC

For Profit Business


To train and equip citizen journalists to cover news in Markham for a new Web site (, using smartphone video reporting and traditional online newsgathering techniques

Projects designed to strengthen information sharing, learning and unique perspectives by and for specific groups

Chicago Association of Hispanic Journalists



For a new Web site to promote the work of Chicago-area Latino journalists, to assign freelance reporters to fill gaps in coverage about issues of interest to the area's Latino community and to train and mentor student and citizen journalists

Chicago Youth Voices Network



To engage several hundred youth journalists in twelve local youth media programs to explore and report on how Chicago teens are faring in the economic recovery, using online polls and social media reporting

Community Media Workshop


$45,000 total

1. $15,000 to help build and develop a strong, healthy online news ecosystem in the Chicago area through continued tracking, convening, reporting, collaboration with and education of the sector

2. $30,000 to launch (in collaboration with Northwestern University Medill School professor Jack Doppelt) a reporting, story sharing and translation service for ethnic media and their audiences, building on CMW's ethnic media work and Medill's "Immigrant Connect Chicago" program

Projects designed to create and build new business models

Chicago News Cooperative

Nonprofit (to become L3C)


To support development of a new L3C cooperative business model providing enterprising journalistic coverage of the Chicago area using various Web, print and broadcast platforms, including a new Web site called "The Chicago Scoop"

Northwestern University (Medill School)



For graduate students to help two local community news ventures develop sustainable business models, with in-depth analysis, prototype development and recommendations for business strategy, audience, content design, delivery, marketing and revenue

Project designed to support investigative journalism and civic engagement

Better Government Association



To train volunteer "reporter monitors" to report on government meetings downtown and in Chicago's neighborhoods for a new "Good Government Virtual Town Hall" Web site

Projects designed to improve technology platforms and aggregation of news and information

Beachwood Media Company

For Profit Business


To help the Beachwood Reporter create a sustainable business model through strategic enhancements in technology and content

Brad Flora



To upgrade software used by The Windy Citizen to enable the site to expand and better integrate with other social media platforms

The CCT statement says Community News Matters is intended "to increase the flow of truthful, accurate and insightful news and information in the region and spur development of new business models for news." According to CEO Terry Mazany, “The Chicago area has become a real laboratory for development of the future for community news and information.”

And should anyone be wondering why some familiar names in local news are missing from the list of Community News Matters grantees, the CCT points out its "longstanding commitment to community information" has been expressed for the past 19 years by its ongoing support of Chicago Matters, a collaboration of WTTW, Chicago Public Radio, the Chicago Public Library, and the Chicago Reporter.

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