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CMW, Reporter in grassroots journalism initiative

Community Media Workshop and the Chicago Reporter will be reaching out to neighborhood bloggers and community groups on the South and West Sides to take up local reporting projects this year, backed by grants from a new Chicago Community Trust initiative.

The Local Reporting Initiative will provide awards of $2,000 and $10,000 for reporting by and for underserved communities in Chicago as part of the Trust’s Community News Matters program.

“We’re looking for the unheralded blogger in Bronzeville or Austin, or for nonprofits and community groups who’d like to engage a local journalist to help them tell their story,” said Thom Clark, president of Community Media Workshop.

“These are the communities that have been hit hardest in this economic crisis,” he said, underscoring the Workshop’s premise that “without voices from the neighborhoods, there can be no effective urban policy in a city like Chicago.”

Nonprofits, for-profit companies and individuals interested in applying are invited to an information session on January 19, 10 a.m. to noon, at Columbia College, 618 S. Michigan, 2nd floor.  Proposals are due February 21.  (Applications and information are available here.)

The Trust hopes “policy groups, community organizations, media outlets of all kinds, and individuals who care about these communities will be inspired by the Initiative to step up” with proposals for reporting projects, said vice president Ngoan Le.

The goal is to “stimulate a wave of new reporting” on issues affecting low-income communities, the Trust said in an announcement.

Community Media Workshop and the Chicago Reporter will share project administration, with the Reporter providing editorial support and the Workshop working to maximize dissemination of reporting, through Newstips and other online platforms and through social media

The initiative reflects the longtime mission of the Workshop to help journalists find community voices and “move beyond official sources,” and to “let the public and policy makers know that there is life in these neighborhoods way beyond the latest shotgun headline,” Clark said.

The geographical focus is a response to recent Community News Matters research which found that “residents of low-income South Side and West Side neighborhoods are especially concerned about the lack of news organizations covering relevant issues in their communities,” said Clark Bell, journalism program director of the McCormick Foundation, which is supporting the initiative.

Other support comes from the Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Driehaus Foundation, and the Woods Fund.

Launched two years ago, the Community News Matters program aims at increasing local news coverage and assisting the development of innovative vehicles for news and information.

“High-quality reporting and analysis is the lifeblood of civic life,” said Le.  But local coverage by mainstream outlets has declined following cuts and consolidation, according to the 2009 New News Report produced by the Workshop for Community News Matters.

The new initiative also responds to findings in the Workshop’s 2010 New News Report that many new media outlets have yet to develop sustainable business models.  A feasability study to be completed February 28 will explore the possibility of establishing an advertising network to support local media innovators.

“Finding ways to pay for the news and information citizens need is one of the critical challenges of our age,” Le said.  “Chicago is blessed with a wealth of new media innovators trying to develop new models for the future.  We are happy to enable them to explore whether, by banding together, they might be able to generate additional financial support for their vital work.”

In addition to the Local Reporting Initiative and the feasibility study, the Trust is extending support for Windy Citizen and Gapers Block, as well as for Columbia College for advertising sales development for Austin Talks.

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Category: journalism, media, nonprofits

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2 Responses

  1. I am very interested in this project but I face two challenges: I don’t live in the Austin area and I work full time during the day so I’m not able to attend the workshops. I live in Roseland which is an economically impoverished neighborhood that gets lots of negative new coverage, but never anything about what’s good in the ‘hood. Will the workshop be offered in the evening or online for those that work full time? How can I get involved in this project? I currently blog and would love to do more about underserved areas and the problems that we face. Can you tell me who I need to talk to? Thank you for taking the time to address my comment.

  2. admin says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    You can contact the Community Media Workshop where we can provide you any assistance or resources. I suggest that you apply for the project and see what happens. Good luck!


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