The Knight Foundation has announced its next round of grant winners, this time focused on strengthening local journalism and open government. All of the winners are also backed by their local communities, or a locally based foundation. For the first time, the challenge prioritized awarding funds to Open Government projects that improve the way people and their governments interact. Half of the winning projects fall into that category.
The winners will share $545,000 from the foundation, and include:
The Alaska Community Foundation
Investigative journalists will train reporters at the Anchorage Daily News to use data to create a compelling, multimedia story. The first issue they will tackle is alcohol abuse, which many consider Alaska’s No. 1 public health problem. The reporting will be part of the Daily News’ yearlong investigation on the impact of alcoholism on the state, though the skills learned will be used on future journalism projects. The community foundation will also partner with the newspaper on a series of community conversations on the issue. The Daily News’ series is part of a statewide effort called Recover Alaska that aims to tackle alcoholism by educating the public, influencing public policy and social norms, and improving access to treatment.
Building on successful efforts to make city data more accessible, the Chattanooga Open Government Collaborative will use challenge funding to train key groups, including journalists, community members and developers, in using the available information. The Chattanooga Public Library will create an online portal housing community data, and along with Open Chattanooga, provide workshops and training on how best to use it to better the community. To start, the collaborative will focus on six community groups interested in a specific issue like public safety. At the end of one year, the collaborative hopes to have an engaged community of data consumers helping to identify needs and assist in designing and utilizing open data tools.
Blue Grass Community Foundation
To help strengthen Lexington’s leadership, the foundation and partners at ProgressLex will create a fellowship to equip local change agents with skills in engaging local government, storytelling and media production. Through weekend seminars, the diverse group of EngageLex fellows will receive a tech toolkit, learn media basics and create short films about the community that will be shared on social media and with local news outlets. By empowering EngageLex fellows with knowledge, production skills and confidence, the foundation hopes to support a culture of engaged residents who feel ownership over their government and can tell the story of their community from the inside out.
Greater New Orleans Foundation
To increase transparency in New Orleans, The Lens, a nonprofit, public-interest newsroom, will collect all public contracts in the city and make them fully searchable and publicly available. The Lens will then marry the contracts with an existing website that delineates the members of all 140 boards and commissions that have the ability to spend public money, making it easier to track any conflicts of interest. The contracts will be housed on DocumentCloud, a tool for journalists funded through the Knight News Challenge. A data journalist will join the newsroom and find and use the data as well.
To empower residents to revitalize their neighborhoods, challenge funds will enable the city of Gary to engage the community around improving vacant and abandoned properties. Currently, Gary residents are looking for ways to invest their financial resources, ideas, professional expertise and sweat equity into combating blight, but aren’t sure how to engage in the process effectively or legally. Challenge funding will help the city use tools like Civic Insight’s Blight Status to track the status of properties, and create a process for approaching these lands that reflects residents’ interests.
Liberty Hill Foundation
To increase transparency in Los Angeles, challenge funds will help the Advancement Project create an easy-to-use online forum and information source about the Los Angeles city budget. While L.A.’s budget is publicly available, its data is embedded in hard-to-navigate documents numbering more than 600 pages. The online comparison tool will aid diverse audiences in analyzing funding changes for departments that have a significant impact on the quality of life for low-income communities, including housing, public works, transportation, parks and recreation, and services for the elderly. Message boards and social media integration will allow open discussion on the quality of city services and finances. Through the tool, the project hopes to engage more Angelenos in city government by helping them uncover and understand government data that represents their community’s needs.
New Mexico Community Foundation
Santa Fe, N.M.
To increase access to news across rural New Mexico, challenge funds will help develop a news-sharing service for small-town independent newspapers. In New Mexico, locally owned community newspapers thrive in their small-town environments as the dominant source for news and information. Nevertheless, many do not have easy access to news from other communities of similar size and circumstance, even though they face many of the same issues related to water access, ranching, economic development and more. Through the Community News Exchange, each participating newspaper will grant access to their content to an editor, who will then prepare news briefs and stand-alone stories to be shared with all the participating newspapers. All outlets will also benefit from original coverage at the 2014 New Mexico Legislature.
P.L. Dodge Foundation
As a way to empower South Floridians, Florida Pro Se Mobile is a mobile app that will help low-income residents understand basic legal procedures. The app will provide guidance on legal topics and direct users to low-cost public legal services and government service providers. Miami-based nonprofit New Equity Partners, the app’s creator, expects the tool to reduce the demand for publicly funded legal services.
The Boston Foundation
This partnership—between the Boston Foundation, public radio station WBUR and Glass Eye Media—will launch a statewide education reporting project creating space for thoughtful conversation around improving Massachusetts schools. The project will use Glass Eye Media’s structured beat approach used in its site Homicide Watch, WBUR’s editorial resources and the Boston Foundation’s connection to the education community to build data, tools and change. The project will increase the station’s capacity to cover education, and build a replicable framework for effective coverage of education reform in other regions and states.
Yakima Valley Community Foundation
To share stories across diverse communities, Northwest Public Radio (NWPR) will partner with public radio station KDNA, a Spanish-language radio station, to create and share reports that both stations will broadcast and disseminate across a variety of platforms. A bilingual reporter and university students will translate reports for use by both stations. A large Native American reservation is also in the area, and the radio station serving that population is being recruited to join this effort.