The Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF) is a new grant-making initiative to help news organizations produce more relevant and trusted coverage for the diverse audiences they serve. The fund will subsidize the costs for newsrooms to adopt tools designed for this purpose. CLEF initially supported Hearken and GroundSource exclusively for the first two rounds of funding. CLEF now also supports the Listening Post Collective’s Membership Program, the Coral Project’s “Talk” and DocumentCloud & MuckRock.

CLEF was created by The News Integrity Initiative (NII), the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

More information about CLEF, the application process, and the Listening Post Collective Membership Program, the Coral Project’s “Talk” and DocumentCloud & MuckRock services are available below:

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

Name: Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF for short)

What is it? A fund to help news organizations better listen to, engage and produce more relevant and differentiated content for the public they serve by using models, tools and consulting designed for this purpose.

Who is it for? U.S. based newsrooms (or international newsrooms with a U.S.-based fiscal sponsor) that are interested in and ready to put into practice proven models, methods and workflows for listening to and building trust with the public. CLEF will help subsidize the cost of services that have a track record of helping newsrooms accomplish these goals: the Coral Project’s Talk, DocumentCloud & MuckRock, and the Listening Post Collective’s training, information ecosystem assessments and consulting.

Here is a full list of the first 34 newsrooms to receive support from CLEF. You can learn more about the second cohort of 18 newsrooms here.

How much do these services cost and how much is subsidized? The cost and subsidy amounts vary by tool:

  • Coral Project’s Talk: The average annual hosting cost for “Talk” is $24,000, plus an additional $2,000 in integration fees, but these amounts can vary based on a variety of factors. This subsidy will cover between 25-90% of the hosting cost for the first year, plus a $500 stipend toward the integration costs.
  • The Listening Post Collective: For this program, cost will be $15,000 for the six months of audience engagement consulting and either an information ecosystem assessment or three-day training on-site, plus up to $2,500 for implementation of the project by the newsroom. The grant will cover the $15,000 cost of the consulting, plus provide $500 toward the cost of project implementation.
  • DocumentCloud & MuckRock: The average annual cost for DocumentCloud or MuckRock is $2,500 The subsidy will cover between 25-75% of the cost.

We are looking for newsrooms that show the most commitment and readiness to make quality engagement a top priority. The amount awarded depends on need, and will subsidize part of the cost of one of the services for year one. There is no guarantee of future funding, so your newsroom should plan for supporting the full cost from its own budget, or through sponsorship or fundraising.

Factors that determine the size of the subsidy include:

  • whether your newsroom is for-profit or nonprofit
  • your annual revenues
  • the specific factors keeping your organization from being able to cover the full cost

You’ll have an opportunity in the application to provide this information.

Can I apply to use both more than one of the supported tools and services? No. When applying, you will only be able to apply for a subsidy for one of the supported services.

Who can apply? This is a needs-based grant that will give preference to:

  • Non-profit journalistic entities (E.g., news outlets, journalism schools)
  • Community-based for-profit media (E.g., ethnic media, LION members)
  • International newsrooms with a U.S.-based fiscal sponsor
  • First-time partners of the Listening Post Collective Membership, The Coral Project’s Talk, or DocumentCloud/MuckRock

Note: this subsidy is not for individuals or third-party services.

Is my newsroom guaranteed a subsidy? No. The fund is limited and preference will be given to newsrooms with the most need and who show the signs of readiness for and commitment to listening and engagement. When newsrooms take on engagement work, they run the risk of further eroding trust of the public if they do not follow through, therefore the application process will screen for signs of readiness and commitment.  

When is the deadline?  October 31st, 2018 at 11:59PM EST

But wait – what if I don’t exactly know how the Listening Post membership, the Coral Project’s “Talk”, or DocumentCloud/MuckRock work yet? Good news! We will be hosting webinar on Tuesday, October 16 at 3:30pm EST/12:30pm PST where representatives of the platforms and the funders will answer questions and discuss the process for applying for the fund.

How do I apply? Once we begin accepting applications, follow this link. The application will take approximately 30-45 minutes to complete. 

Anything else to note? Subsidy recipients agree to participate in a study by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism on the efficacy of these engagement efforts. As part of that study, you may be asked to share performance metrics data and take part in interviews.

This fund is an experiment, and as such we’ll be in learning mode and looking to understand how best to help newsrooms adopt engagement practices for better listening. The fund’s structure and subsidized offerings may change over time.

Webinar

CLEF is holding a webinar on Tuesday, October 16 at 3:30pm Eastern, 12:30pm Pacific for potential applicants to learn more about each service and its various applications. Sign up via this link. If you cannot make it to the webinar, the video will be posted here shortly afterward.

In the meantime, check out their websites for more information: the Coral Project’s TalkDocumentCloud & MuckRock, and the Listening Post Collective.

About the Coral Project, the Listening Post Collective, and DocumentCloud/MuckRock

Hearken

About The Listening Post Collective

The Listening Post Collective (LPC) is a community news initiative that has created and supported engaged journalism projects around the US in places like New Orleans, Omaha, Oakland, and Puerto Rico, with an eye on getting key news and information to citizens often left out of the media conversation. The Listening Post Collective offers an online playbook, how-to guides, small grants, mentorship, networking, workshops and advice for journalists, newsroom leaders and community groups looking to build trust, and create more relevant, inclusive reporting in their communities. We believe responsible reporting begins with listening. From there, media outlets and community organizations can create news stories that respond to people’s informational needs, reflect their lives, and enable them to make informed decisions.

 

For more information, please visit www.listeningpostcollective.org

 

About The Coral Project 

The Coral Project from Mozilla helps you get closer to the communities you serve through an open source comments tool that improves dialog and increases reader loyalty. Our tools are used by more than 40 newsrooms in 12 countries, running comments, Q+As, and moderated interactions. We also offer consulting, strategy, planning, and training to help you engage in ways that improve your journalism, support your business, and help your audience live better lives.

 

For more information, please visit www.coralproject.net

 

About DocumentCloud/MuckRock

MuckRock and DocumentCloud, which merged this year, offer a suite of tools and services that help newsrooms generate story ideas, gather and analyze primary documents, and involve their audience in the reporting process through new crowdfunding and crowdsourcing tools. The organization offers five services — MuckRock, which helps file, track, and share public records requests; DocumentCloud, which helps host, analyze, and publish primary documents; FOIA Machine, which helps users manage requests they’ve filed themselves; oTranscribe, which securely and simply helps transcribe audio and video; and QuackBot, a chatbot that gives newsrooms new super powers right from Slack.

 

For more information, please visit www.documentcloud.org and www.muckrock.com

CLEF Announcement for Open Applications

The Community Listening & Engagement Fund Announces a New Round of Grants for Newsrooms Featuring an Expanded Suite of Engagement Tools

                             

PHILADELPHIA (October 1, 2018) — The Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF) is opening a third round of applications for newsroom, and is offering subsidies for an expanded suite of tools. CLEF will subsidize the costs for newsrooms to adopt the Coral Project’s Talk, DocumentCloud & MuckRock, and the Listening Post Collective’s training, information ecosystem assessments and consulting. These three organizations provide proven technology and consulting services that enable newsrooms to deepen their reporting and relationship with their communities. CLEF is supported by the News Integrity Initiative, Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

 

“Incorporating these tools into local newsrooms offers novel methods of community listening and engagement. This is the foundation of trust in news,” said Democracy Fund’s Paul Waters. “CLEF’s investment in news technology and capabilities is strengthening local newsrooms, their community relationships, and building firm foundations for sustainable news ecosystems.”

 

The Coral Project’s Talk makes comment sections more effective and engaging through enhanced functionality for both commenters and moderators. DocumentCloud and MuckRock allow journalists to analyze, annotate and publish primary source documents, and request, analyze, and share government documents. The Listening Post Collective provides research that helps news organizations gain deeper insights about the communities they serve, a three-day workshop and six months of mentoring on community engagement best practices.

“We recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model for building trust and relationships with communities,” said Molly de Aguiar, Managing Director of the News Integrity Initiative.  “That is why we are very excited to be expanding the offering of tools and services for newsrooms in this round of CLEF. These tools will enable newsrooms to experiment even more with how to be more relevant and trusted by their communities.”

CLEF was created to help newsrooms be more relevant, trusted and responsive to the public, leveraging technology to enhance the journalistic practices and workflows required for building trust and engagement with the community. The first two rounds of CLEF supported Hearken and GroundSource exclusively. Both tools have demonstrated that engaged readers are more likely to become sustaining members or paying subscribers to community news organizations. Bringing on the Coral Project’s Talk, the Listening Post Collective’s mentorship program, and DocumentCloud & MuckRock will add to the learnings about how tools that help build trust with readers help with long term sustainability for these publishers.

“The Community Listening & Engagement Fund has helped nearly 50 newsrooms, nationally and internationally, to be able to take advantage of the technology and expertise of audience engagement services like Hearken and GroundSource. The early results from newsrooms have shown that the consulting and technology that both Hearken and GroundSource provide have helped to garner more diversity than traditional audiences,” said Cheryl Thompson-Morton, Business & Programs Analyst of the Lenfest Institute and leader of CLEF. “We are excited to offer this opportunity for more newsrooms with this new round of funding”

U.S.-based newsrooms (or international newsrooms with a U.S.-based fiscal sponsor) are eligible to apply. CLEF provides need-based grants, and it will give preference to:

  • Non-profit journalistic entities (e.g., news outlets, public media, journalism schools)
  • Community-based for-profit media (e.g., ethnic media, LION members)
  • First-time partners of the Coral Project’s Talk, The Listening Post Membership, or DocumentCloud & MuckRock

 

Participating newsrooms will receive a grant to subsidize part of the cost of the service chosen. The cost and subsidy amounts vary by tool:

  • Coral Project’s Talk: The average annual hosting cost for “Talk” is $24,000, plus an additional $2,000 in integration fees, but these amounts can vary based on a variety of factors. This subsidy will cover between 25-90% of the hosting cost for the first year, plus a $500 stipend toward the integration costs.
  • The Listening Post Collective: For this program, cost will be $15,000 for the six months of audience engagement consulting and either an information ecosystem assessment or three-day training on-site, plus up to $2,500 for implementation of the project by the newsroom. The grant will cover the $15,000 cost of the consulting, plus provide $500 toward the cost of project implementation.
  • DocumentCloud & MuckRock: The average annual cost for DocumentCloud or MuckRock is $2,500. The subsidy will cover between 25-75% of the cost.

Grant amounts will be determined based on a number of criteria including newsroom size, need, and plans for how the tools will be used. Participating organizations will be required to cover a portion of their expenses, commit the time and personnel necessary to successfully integrate these tools into their editorial workflows, and participate in a study conducted by the Lenfest Institute on the efficacy of these engagement metrics.

Applications are now open for subsidies for the Coral Project’s Talk, The Listening Post Collective’s research and mentorship program and DocumentCloud & MuckRock and the deadline to apply is October 31, 2018. Those interested in the fund can attend a webinar on Tuesday, October 16 at 3:30pm EST/12:30pm PST where representatives of the platforms and the funders will answer questions and discuss the process for applying for the fund.

  

About The News Integrity Initiative

The News Integrity Initiative is a global coalition of partners, from newsrooms and nonprofits, to technologists and academics, with a vision for journalism that builds trust, empathy and solutions in our communities. To achieve this vision, NII collaborates with a wide variety of partners, and makes grants centered around three specific areas of focus: building enduring trust between newsrooms and the public, nurturing inclusive civic dialogue, and helping newsrooms stop the spread of disinformation. NII is housed at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

For more information, please visit: www.newsintegrity.com.

 

About Democracy Fund

Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation created by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to help ensure that our political system can withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Since 2011, Democracy Fund has invested more than $100 million in support of a healthy democracy, including modern elections, effective governance, and a vibrant public square.

To learn more, visit www.democracyfund.org or follow @democracyfund.

 

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

For more information, please visit: www.knightfoundation.org.

 

About The Lenfest Institute for Journalism

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is a non-profit organization whose sole mission is to develop and support sustainable business models for great local journalism. The Institute was founded in 2016 by cable television entrepreneur H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest.  Lenfest gifted to the Institute an initial endowment of $20 million, which has since been supplemented by other donors, for investment in innovative news initiatives, new technology, and new models for sustainable journalism.  The Institute’s goal is to help transform the news industry in the digital age to ensure that high-quality local journalism remains a cornerstone of our democracy.

For more information, please visit: www.lenfestinstitute.org.

 

About The Listening Post Collective

The Listening Post Collective (LPC) is a community news initiative that has created and supported engaged journalism projects around the US in places like New Orleans, Omaha, Oakland, and Puerto Rico, with an eye on getting key news and information to citizens often left out of the media conversation. The Listening Post Collective offers an online playbook, how-to guides, small grants, mentorship, networking, workshops and advice for journalists, newsroom leaders and community groups looking to build trust, and create more relevant, inclusive reporting in their communities. We believe responsible reporting begins with listening. From there, media outlets and community organizations can create news stories that respond to people’s informational needs, reflect their lives, and enable them to make informed decisions.

For more information, please visit www.listeningpostcollective.org

 

About The Coral Project

The Coral Project from Mozilla helps you get closer to the communities you serve through an open source comments tool that improves dialog and increases reader loyalty. Our tools are used by more than 40 newsrooms in 12 countries, running comments, Q+As, and moderated interactions. We also offer consulting, strategy, planning, and training to help you engage in ways that improve your journalism, support your business, and help your audience live better lives.

For more information, please visit www.coralproject.net

 

About DocumentCloud/MuckRock

MuckRock and DocumentCloud, which merged this year, offer a suite of tools and services that help newsrooms generate story ideas, gather and analyze primary documents, and involve their audience in the reporting process through new crowdfunding and crowdsourcing tools. The organization offers five services — MuckRock, which helps file, track, and share public records requests; DocumentCloud, which helps host, analyze, and publish primary documents; FOIA Machine, which helps users manage requests they’ve filed themselves; oTranscribe, which securely and simply helps transcribe audio and video; and QuackBot, a chatbot that gives newsrooms new super powers right from Slack.

For more information, please visit www.documentcloud.org and www.muckrock.com

First CLEF Cohort

The following newsrooms are the first CLEF recipients. A selection of projects is also provided below:

Local Newsrooms

Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY

El Tímpano, Oakland, CA

Kansas City PBS, Kansas City, MO

Marfa Public Radio, Marfa, TX

NUVO, Indianapolis, IN

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, PA

Richland Source, Mansfield, OH

Seattle Times, Seattle, WA

Southern California Public Radio (KPCC), Pasadena, CA

Spirited Media, Philadelphia, PA

Peoria Journal Star, Peoria, IL & Toledo Blade, Toledo, OH

Voice of San Diego, San Diego, CA

WFIU / WTIU, Bloomington, IN

WhereBy.Us, Miami, FL

WUWM, Milwaukee, WI

State Newsrooms

Illinois Public Media, Champaign-Urbana, IL

KJZZ, Phoenix, AZ

National Newsroom

The Ferret, Scotland, UK

Topic-based Newsrooms

Better Government Association, Chicago, IL

Bitch Media, Portland, OR

Center for Public Integrity, Washington, DC

Chalkbeat, New York, NY

Mother Jones, San Francisco, CA

Religion News Service, Washington, DC

Science Friday Initiative, New York, NY

Searchlight New Mexico, Santa Fe, NM

The Hechinger Report, New York, NY

The Trace, New York, NY

Universities

Daily Nebraskan, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE

Klein College of Media and Communication, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

 

Hearken & GroundSource

  • Better Government Association is currently developing The News Deserts Project that seeks to identify geographic and socioeconomic “news deserts,” communities in which failures in the generation, delivery, and consumption of news hinder civic participation and thus cripple democracy. They will use GroundSource for communication between community members and investigative journalists to the identify these communities. They will use Hearken to invite community members to submit story ideas, respond to polls, and ask questions of journalists.
  • The Seattle Times is currently running Project Homeless, a community-funded journalism initiative creating solutions-oriented coverage and conversation about the homelessness crisis in the region. They will use GroundSource to communicate with an advisory board of homeless residents and will use Hearken to allow their audience to ask questions about the homelessness crisis.
  • The Trace is planning to use GroundSource to help connect with communities in Chicago most affected by gun violence who may not have access to a computer. They are planning to use Hearken to help garner responses from gun-owners to add a different viewpoint to their coverage.
  • The Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University will use both Hearken and GroundSource to solicit questions and co-report stories with their audience for their student publication focused on underserved communities. The will also create curriculum to introduce students to these tools along with other engagement methods.

GroundSource

  • Chalkbeat will use GroundSource almost exclusively to reach parents in low-income communities. In Detroit, they will use GroundSource as part of an investigation into enrollment instability in schools — a crucial, but under-recognized, factor in what makes it so difficult to improve educational outcomes for children in cities like Detroit.
  • Searchlight New Mexico will use GroundSource to interact with foster care youth. They have organized a small group of former foster youth to help them strategize how to best reach their peers in the foster system. They have also identified the school districts where there are the most students in foster care. They plan to meet with the principals and social workers there and to offer text prompts to students to communicate directly with Searchlight through GroundSource.
  • The Peoria Journal Star and the Toledo Blade, will use GroundSource to create a bellwether focus group around the 2018 election, and to crowdsource questions, photos, and other media assets from their audiences.

Hearken

  • The Center for Public Integrity will use Hearken to receive feedback for newsletters, to identify interviewees to complement data-driven investigations, and to use it to obtain feedback and story ideas from underrepresented communities for their series on economic inequality.
  • Democrat & Chronicle will use Hearken to allow the community to ask questions, give feedback, become sources, and to help inform programming for their series focused on the Rochester public school system.
  • The Christian Science Monitor will use Hearken to involve their audience in the entire editorial process, and to allow subscribers to grade articles on their relevance and to help inform future content.
Second CLEF Cohort

The Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF) on Tuesday announced that it is awarding more than $100,000 to 18 news organizations as part of its second round of grant making.

The first two rounds of CLEF funding support newsrooms using two community-listening services, Hearken and GroundSource. Hearken allows news organizations to include the public as a story develops, from conception to publication, resulting in more inclusive, original reporting and helping newsrooms create new revenue streams. GroundSource uses mobile messaging and voice to build two-way relationships with audiences. The initial results from the first round of CLEF funding have been encouraging. Selected examples are provided below.

The second group of CLEF grantees was chosen from nearly 60 applicants, and they included a wide variety of news organizations: there are 10 local outlets, one statewide news organizations, one national publisher, three topic-based publishers, three student newspapers, and one university. CLEF is funded by a consortium of journalism and democracy-oriented foundations including The News Integrity Initiative, Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

This CLEF cohort will use Hearken and GroundSource to cover a diverse range of topics, such as the employment boom in Racine County, Wisconsin thanks to a new plant being built by Taiwanese telecom giant Foxconn (Racine County Eye) and the upcoming midterm elections (City Limits, The Colorado Independent, The Day, etc.).

Since both Hearken and GroundSource help newsrooms engage more diverse voices and outside perspectives in their news decision-making, the funders of CLEF sought newsrooms with a commitment to diversity in hiring and staffing their operations. Demographic data was gathered from the CLEF-awarded newsrooms. Collectively averaged, the newsrooms staffs were 23% minority and 51% female, compared to 2017 ASNE diversity survey averages of 16.6% minority and 39.1% female.

In the first round, announced in April 2018, CLEF awarded subsidies for Hearken and GroundSource to 34 organizations. The feedback from newsrooms has been positive, with several citing the advent of greater diversity of news sources and a cultural shift in newsrooms placing stronger emphasis on community engagement. Several have reported meaningful increases in new newsletter subscribers. We have highlighted a few of these examples:

Mother Jones embarked with Hearken on a series of questions such as how people respond to the Supreme Court’s travel ban ruling. The most successful stories have benefited from topic timeliness and Hearken’s ease of use. Hearken helps share responses across newsroom teams from a story’s conception to delivery. For example, the series “Tell Us Why You Quit Meat” netted more than 300 responses and produced interesting high-quality stories across platforms – online, on social media and on The Mother Jones Podcast. Mother Jones has done eight separate audience call-outs through Hearken, receiving a combined total of 882 submissions since mid-June. When given the opportunity to sign up for a Mother Jones newsletter in the Hearken embed, 46 percent of those responding to a call-out asked to be subscribed.

Two Seattle newsrooms from the first round used Hearken to collect questions from their audiences about homelessness, a huge issue the city is facing. The Seattle Times has received more than 800 questions, and when they put three questions up for a vote, nearly 5,000 votes came in. The Project Homeless team is reporting out the answer to the winning question now, and is very excited about how the question-asker can participate. Similarly, The Evergrey invited questions about homelessness along with seven other news organizations that came together to publish the same call-out and share access to all 400+ questions received. The Evergrey, GeekWire and Real Change have already answered many questions, and the other partner newsrooms are expected to publish answers to questions that were publicly-selected through voting rounds in the coming weeks. They also hosted a Facebook Live conversation discussing some of the questions they received.

With GroundSource, Science Friday focused on a weeklong audience engagement project during “Cephalopod Week,” titled “Cephalopod of the Day.” The project distributed daily texts to participants including fun facts and scientific information on different species of the cephalopod class. During the weeklong project, 836 people signed up for “Cephalopod Of The Day,” 348 of whom were engaged with the final project—exceeding Science Friday’s expectations for the test run of the platform. Thanks to interactive components of GroundSource, 162 original engagements become newsletter subscribers. The response rate was at 37.2 percent – a very high rate for audience engagement.

Better Government Association (BGA) deployed both Hearken and GroundSource on different projects targeting accountability in local government and public projects. “Trapped: Neglected Elevators Put Chicago’s Public Housing Residents at Risks,” is one of many ongoing projects that tackle marginalized communities through inventive audience engagement tools. BGA is also creating a database for the audience to text an address and the service will respond with inspections, 911 calls and other data related to their address. Unique visitors per month were up slightly but new newsletter subscribers jumped from 157 to 533 during the reporting period.

The following newsrooms are the second cohort of CLEF recipients. A selection of projects is also provided below:

Local newsrooms:

City Limits – New York City, NY – GroundSource

The Day – New London, CT – Hearken

Resolve Philly – Philadelphia, PA – Hearken

Racine County Eye – Racine, WI – GroundSource

Scalawag Magazine – Durham, NC – Hearken

Sonoma West Publishers – Healdsburg, CA – Hearken

The Reading Eagle – Reading, PA – Hearken

WHYY – Philadelphia, PA – GroundSource

WKSU – Ohio – Hearken

WWNO – New Orleans, LA – GroundSource

State newsrooms:

The Colorado Independent – Denver, CO – Hearken

National newsrooms:

Issue Media Group – Detroit, MI – GroundSource

Topic-based newsrooms:

Ensia at The Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota – Minneapolis, MN – Hearken and GroundSource

Orb Media – Washington D.C. – GroundSource

Student newsrooms:

Iowa State Daily at Iowa State University – Ames, IA – Hearken

The Daily Tar Heel at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill – Chapel Hill, NC – GroundSource

The Chronicle at Duke University – Durham, NC – Hearken

University:

University of Miami – Miami, FL – Hearken & GroundSource

Selected Round-Two Projects:

Hearken:

The Colorado Independent plans to use Hearken around its elections and politics coverage, to make sure they’re focusing on issues that have the most impact on and are important to their audience. With the first wide-open gubernatorial race in a generation, the small, women-led newsroom knows much is at stake for the state. Voters will have the chance to decide the balance of power in a legislature that will consider issues that impact growth, affordable housing, oil and gas policy, and civil rights. What The Colorado Independent learns from audience members will inform its coverage during the election, and in the months after, as staff continue to focus on the intersection of policy, politics and daily life. The newsroom looks forward to working with Hearken to engage readers beyond a traditional news coverage approach, allowing input from audience members to shape its coverage.

GroundSource:

Racine County Eye will use GroundSource to focus the issues that most affect people of color in the community, namely unemployment and underemployment for African-Americans. This marginalized group is often unheard and harder to reach. With the help of GroundSource’s SMS service, Racine County Eye hopes to gain insight into how people navigate the systems around employment which will leverage its employment news, open a door to useful sponsored content from employers and establish a resource page for job seekers. The newsroom’s focus on providing information pathways to employment is tied to a Foxconn factory’s construction nearby. Having a system in place to communicate back and forth with workers and residents will assist Racine County Eye in finding stories of maximum community interest and value.

Hearken & GroundSource:

Ensia, a nonprofit magazine focused on environmental challenges and solutions, will use Hearken to have the public recommend story ideas to expand the range of topics they cover and better understand their audience. They also plan to use Hearken specifically to help the newsroom develop event ideas to make sure their event strategy centers around what the audience wants. They will use GroundSource at their events to take answers from the audience and create a feedback loop for engagement after the event.

CLEF Announcement

News Integrity Initiative, Democracy Fund, Knight Foundation and Lenfest Institute announce $650,000 Community Listening and Engagement Fund to help newsrooms adopt new audience engagement tools

                                  

(January 23, 2018) — The News Integrity Initiative (NII), Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism are joining together to create the Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF), a new grant-making initiative to help news organizations produce more relevant and trusted coverage for the diverse audiences they serve. The Fund will subsidize the costs for newsrooms to adopt proven technology tools that enable them to engage with and listen to their communities.

The two initial services supported through CLEF are Hearken and GroundSource. Both software platforms were designed by journalists and have been tested and proven in newsrooms around the world. Hearken allows news organizations to include the public as a story develops, from conception to publication, enabling community members to suggest and then vote on which stories should be covered. GroundSource uses mobile messaging and voice to build two-way relationships with audiences.

NII, Democracy Fund, Knight Foundation, and the Lenfest Institute are collectively contributing $650,000 to support CLEF. The fund will ultimately be expanded to support the adoption of additional audience engagement technology, tools, and services.

CLEF was created to help newsrooms be more relevant, trusted and responsive to the public, leveraging technology to enhance the journalistic practices and workflows required for effective listening. The word “clef” is French for “key” and is also the name of a symbol indicating musical pitch. It is through better listening that journalists and newsrooms can read the tenor of the communities they serve and respond in the most appropriate tone. Hearken, GroundSource and other such tools have demonstrated that engaged readers are much more likely to become sustaining members or paying subscribers to community news organizations.

“News enterprises have turned increasingly to membership and digital subscription business models that require a keen ear for reader needs in order to succeed,” said Molly de Aguiar, Managing Director of the News Integrity Initiative who conceived of CLEF. “We are delighted to support this growing initiative.” Added Jim Friedlich, Executive Director of The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, “Readers respond with their time, their trust, and their money to news organizations who listen best to them. Strong listening skills are both a journalistic and a business imperative.”

“In a democracy we need to be able to listen and engage with each other across differences,” said Paul Waters, senior associate at Democracy Fund. “Democracy Fund believes that journalists can help us do that, and this fund will help more newsrooms build those bridges in ways that strengthen journalism, communities and our democracy.”

“Trust in media is at an all-time low. To address this challenge, reporters need to develop stronger relationships with the communities they cover. The hope for the initiative is that it will help to close this gap and ensure a stronger future for journalism,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism.

U.S.-based newsrooms (or international newsrooms with a U.S.-based fiscal sponsor) are eligible to apply. CLEF provides need-based grants, and it will give preference to:

  • Non-profit journalistic entities (e.g., news outlets, public media, journalism schools)
  • Community-based for-profit media (e.g., ethnic media, LION members)
  • First-time partners of either Hearken or GroundSource

Participating newsrooms will receive a grant to cover between 25 to 75 percent of their first-year costs of using either or both tools. The average first-year cost of Hearken or GroundSource is $8,500. Grants will mostly range from about $2,000 to $6,400, and will be determined based on a number of criteria including newsroom size, need, and plans for how the tools will be used. Participating organizations will be required to cover a portion of their expenses, commit the time and personnel necessary to successfully integrate these tools into their editorial workflows, and participate in a study conducted by the Lenfest Institute on the efficacy of these engagement metrics. Applications will be accepted in three cycles throughout 2018.

 Applications to receive support from CLEF are now open, and the deadline for applying to the first cohort is February 16, 2018. Those interested in the fund can attend a webinar on Wednesday, January 31 at 3pm EST/1pm PST where representatives of the platforms and the funders will answer questions and discuss the process for applying for the fund.

  

About The News Integrity Initiative

The News Integrity Initiative at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism is a $14 million fund supporting efforts to connect journalists, technologists, academic institutions, non-profits, and other organizations from around the world to foster informed and engaged communities, combat media manipulation, and support inclusive, constructive, and respectful civic discourse. The fund is supported by a coalition of partners, including Facebook, Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, Ford Foundation, AppNexus, Knight Foundation, Tow Foundation, Betaworks, Mozilla, and Democracy Fund.

For more information, please visit: www.newsintegrity.com.

 

About Democracy Fund

Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation created by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to help ensure that our political system can withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Since 2011, Democracy Fund has invested more than $70 million in support of a healthy democracy, including modern elections, effective governance, and a vibrant public square.

For more information, please visit: www.democracyfund.org.

 

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

For more information, please visit: www.knightfoundation.org.

 

About The Lenfest Institute for Journalism

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is a non-profit organization whose sole mission is to develop and support sustainable business models for great local journalism. The Institute was founded in 2016 by cable television entrepreneur H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest.  Lenfest gifted to the Institute an initial endowment of $20 million, which has since been supplemented by other donors, for investment in innovative news initiatives, new technology, and new models for sustainable journalism.  The Institute’s goal is to help transform the news industry in the digital age to ensure that high-quality local journalism remains a cornerstone of our democracy.

For more information, please visit: www.lenfestinstitute.org.

 

About Hearken

 Hearken enables news organizations to listen to and engage the public as a story develops from conception to publication. Their unique public-powered methodology and engagement platform has lead to top-performing, differentiated and award-winning stories while also growing newsletter signups, paid subscribers and membership. An annual subscription to Hearken includes expert consulting, training, their custom platform, data reports and entry to a global community of best practices. Developed out of WBEZ as part of AIR’s 2012 Localore initiative, Hearken is now at work in more than 100 newsrooms around the world in various formats (TV, radio, newspaper, digital) and content types (feature investigations, breaking news, beat reporting, live events, topic-based or geographic-based coverage).

For more information, please visit: www.wearehearken.com.

 

About GroundSource

GroundSource is a platform newsrooms use to build and scale two-way relationships with audiences and communities via mobile messaging and voice. It’s also a service that helps newsrooms imagine and implement new ways to reach out to communities, build trust, and becoming more responsive to audience needs and interests. GroundSource is in service at dozens of newsrooms, civic organizations and non-profits around the US, and around the world.

For more information, please visit: www.groundsource.co.

 

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APPLY FOR FUNDING FROM CLEF

Apply for a subsidy to use the Coral Project’s “Talk”, DocumentCloud/MuckRock, and the Listening Post Collective’s membership program from the Community Listening and Engagement Fund.