With its $35,000 award from the INNovation Fund, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting set out to increase community engagement in government budget accountability by hosting a series of events and providing “citizen journalists” with the tools to find and describe earmarked funds. These highly engaged audience members would share findings with each other in real time and with the greater public via a standalone web site. Responses provided by Burt Glass have been edited and condensed. What was your organization trying to achieve? Our initial goal was to engage and educate the public with a series of community journalism “hackathon” events, focused primarily on government accountability and earmarks in the 2016 Massachusetts state budget.
Who doesn’t love a food festival? When the Food & Environment Reporting Network, a nationally distributed news organization focused on food and the environment, wanted to elevate its profile with the general public and bring awareness of its brand of storytelling to potential new audiences and donors, it decided to throw a party. FERN Talks & Eats was a high-end event where attendees were regaled with food by top chefs, music and storytelling. It safe to say that event planning is not in the skill set of most journalists, but that didn’t hamper the folks at FERN. The sold-out event, held in Brooklyn, NY had 250 attendees and showcased FERN’s food and environmentally-focused storytelling to new audiences in a fun and festive way.
With its $30,000 award from the INNovation Fund, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting set out to develop a database application bringing together information from several sources about agricultural companies and testing the “freemium” model for generating revenue by offering accessible data sets and related content. Responses provided by Pamela Dempsey have been edited and condensed. What was your organization trying to achieve? Our goals with this project were to build a database application, The Risk Miner, that meshes information from several sources about big agribusiness companies and to test the freemium model for generating revenue by offering accessible data sets and related content. What role did the INNovation Fund dollars play in the project?
With its $10,000 award from the INNovation Fund, the Austin Monitor set out to create a map-based tool enabling Monitor readers to see current and archival news content by neighborhood, testing new audience engagement approaches and ways to draw new value from news archives. Responses provided by Michael Kanin have been edited and condensed. What was your organization trying to achieve? The goal of the project was to build a mapping tool with in-story geocode integration that allows us to demonstrate the direct geographic relevance of our news coverage. We hoped that by doing so we would be able to drive traffic on the website by illustrating the very local impact of our reporting.
With its $35,000 award from the INNovation Fund, Mother Jones set out to develop best practices for how fellow nonprofit publishers may best utilize Facebook Instant Articles for editorial uses and membership growth and fundraising. Responses provided by Brian Hiatt have been edited and condensed. What was your organization trying to achieve? Facebook referrals accounted for 45 percent of Mother Jones’ total online traffic, and Facebook sharing had helped us reach many readers who previously would not have seen our content. But slow article load times, especially on mobile devices, presented a major problem.
With its $10,000 award from the INNovation Fund, Arizona State University and Cronkite News set out to test and analyze which types of audiences are most likely to contribute to student media and state news services and whether crowdfunding is a viable ongoing revenue source for student-based media. Responses have been edited and condensed. What was your organization trying to achieve? First, we wanted to raise money to expand coverage of an undercovered and often misunderstood region — the U.S.-Mexico border — that was central to much of the political rhetoric this past election season. Second and perhaps equally important, we wanted to see whether crowdfunding could be a viable path for supporting journalism school projects in the Cronkite School’s teaching-hospital model.
With its $7,500 award from the INNovation Fund, The Lens developed The Speakers Bureau to connect the local community face-to-face with Lens reporters and editors, explaining how and why they report the news. Responses provided by Karen Gadbois. What was your organization trying to achieve? We wanted to monetize a service that we had been providing to the community for free. The Lens has been demonstrating its commitment to our audience by introducing our reporters to the public.
Facebook is important for growing an engaged readership in New Mexico. Both the number of people who read our stories and the level of engagement via commenting on the platform have grown significantly.
Through creative partnerships with neighborhood groups, we recruited more than 1,600 people who agreed to get text messages sent to their phone each week or so, with a mix of news and questions designed to draw them out on various and often difficult subjects.
With its $25,000 award from the INNovation Fund, Carolina Public Press set out to institute a series of face-to-face forums in 18 largely rural counties in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Responses provided by Angie Newsome. What was your organization trying to achieve? In 2014, Carolina Public Press embarked on a concentrated engagement program to meet with its readers, donors, and content-sharing partners across 18 counties of Western North Carolina. One of the largest challenges faced by Carolina Public Press since its inception is finding, growing and keeping its audience — and donors to support it.
With its $35,000 award from the INNovation Fund, NJ Spotlight set out to stage a one-day multi-tracked event to convene leaders and citizens to tackle the needs of major New Jersey cities on a multitude of critical civic issues.
Responses provided by NJ Spotlight CEO John Mooney. Organization Name: NJ Spotlight
Project Title: NJ Spotlight on Cities
Focus: A day-long conference on the challenges and opportunities facing New Jersey cities. What was your organization trying to achieve? We had multiple goals with NJ Spotlight On Cities. First, we wanted to bring more discussion, understanding and exposure to issues faced by New Jersey’s urban areas, especially at a time that cities are seeing an influx of new residents and businesses.
Success is often attributed to being being in the right place at the right time. For 100Reporters, capitalizing on its Washington, D.C., location was key to the success of the Investigative Film Festival — the first of its kind. It didn’t hurt that the festival secured the Washington, D.C., premiere of Spotlight, the movie portrayal of the Boston Globe’s investigation of child sex abuse by Catholic priests and 2015 Academy Award Best Picture winner. For 100Reporters, the INNovation Fund award of $35,000 served as seed funding and gave credibility to the project. This money opened doors to other foundations to fully fund a sustainable festival.
The Seattle Globalist is an online daily whose purpose is to highlight the connection between global and local news in Greater Seattle. While there continues to be an outcry at the lack of diversity in newsrooms across the country, that cry has been muted at the Globalist whose mission is “To elevate diverse voices through media” — simple and powerful. It’s no surprise that the Globalist used its INNovation grant to build a pipeline of diverse journalists by developing and marketing a community journalism workshop series with two goals: to increase efficiency in the storytelling process and to develop an earned revenue stream. Here’s a quick look at the results: approximately 67 percent of its contributors are people of color; women make up 73 percent of site contributors; and 45 percent are immigrants or first-generation Americans. This type of mission-driven creativity is the purpose behind the the grant, which was funded by the Knight Foundation.
Connecticut Health Investigative Team chose to hold a health fair with their INNovation Fund grant from Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund. They leveraged a $20,000 grant into $52,000 in additional revenue from sponsors and donors. Additionally, C-HIT saw a 35 percent increase in website users and a 43 percent increase in pageviews during the project timeframe. One of many strategies you’ll find in their story is the use of targeted marketing. C-HIT wanted to reach minority communities who traditionally under-utilize healthcare resources and were unlikely to become aware of the health fair event through mainstream media.