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 will initially support Hearken and GroundSource.

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 Hearken and GroundSource services is 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 working with the public. CLEF will help subsidize the cost of two services that have a track record of helping newsrooms accomplish these goals: Hearken and GroundSource.

Here is a full list of the first 34 newsrooms to receive support from CLEF.

How much do these services cost and how much is subsidized? Hearken and GroundSource have slightly different fee structures, but on average both cost $8,500 for year one. 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 between 25-75% of the cost of either or both 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 Hearken and GroundSource? Yes! If you are a current Hearken or GroundSource partner, you may apply to get a subsidy off of the service you’re not yet using. And if you are not a partner of either service, you can apply to get a subsidy to use both and if awarded, receive an extra 10% subsidized off the total.

Can Hearken and GroundSource work together? Yes, in fact they are complementary services. Both are designed to help newsrooms make public-powered journalism — to listen to and share power with the public before and during reporting. Hearken’s technology is optimized for web-based interaction and GroundSource’s technology is optimized for mobile messaging and voice (SMS, Facebook Messenger, etc). Their technologies can be used together. See this article for a case study in how WAMU’s 1A national talk show is using both services to be listener-focused in their coverage.

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 either Hearken or GroundSource

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

If you are already a partner of Hearken or GroundSource and would like to apply for funding to use the other service, please fill out the subsidy application.
Special note for current Hearken partners: If you are interested in spreading public-powered journalism more deeply in your organization through the purchase of additional subscriptions for new teams / desks / shows / projects, please contact your Hearken engagement consultant.

Special note for current GroundSource partners: You may qualify to do custom development work that could include linking messaging to data, allowing people to get localized or personalized news and information based on their neighborhood, congressional district, etc.; to engage audiences via Facebook Messenger; or to publish community contributions in an online feed.

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.  

We will run three cycles in 2018 (roughly every four months). Subsidies are limited and when the fund is out, the subsidies will end. We encourage you to apply early.

When is the deadline? Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, but we’ll begin accepting applications for the second cohort on May 1, 2018. We’ll share more details about deadlines as that date approaches.

But wait – what if I don’t exactly know how Hearken or GroundSource work yet? Good news! Here’s a webinar that explains both services, and a link to the slides.

 

How do I apply? After May 1, 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.

About Hearken and GroundSource

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).

With Hearken’s consulting and technology services, Milwaukee’s WUWM launched the hit series “Bubbler Talk” in 2016. The stories from audience questions consistently earn higher traffic and engagement than traditional stories. Both of the most-viewed stories in the site’s history are Bubbler Talk stories. The series also attracted sponsorship from several businesses. They started looking for a sponsor in season 3, and have had one ever since. They are currently in season 5 of the show. In 2017, the newsroom (with support from Hearken’s consultants and technology) expanded its use of Hearken to help beat reporters more deeply engage with their communities.

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

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.

GroundSource has wide-ranging applications for news organizations seeking to build two-way relationships with communities and audiences on air, online and in person. KPCC uses GroundSource to build relationships before, during and after their Unheard LA live event series. Among other uses, GroundSource powered “Paige,” the Texas Tribune’s legislative bot, which yielded more than 1,100 subscribers during the last legislative session. More than 10,000 South Texas residents subscribed to get text updates from Univision during Hurricane Harvey — and shared pictures and stories in return. WLRN uses it to collect questions and stories for their Florida Roundtable program. And Outlier Media uses GroundSource to share housing foreclosure and tax information with Detroit residents, building a two-way conversation that has led to multiple investigative stories

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

First CLEF Cohort

COMMUNITY LISTENING AND ENGAGEMENT FUND AWARDS FIRST ROUND OF GRANTS TO 34 NEWS ORGANIZATIONS

(April 11, 2018) — The Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF) today announced that 34 news organizations will receive grants to subsidize the costs of two services, Hearken and GroundSource. These tools help news organizations better listen to their communities and create more inclusive, relevant, and trusted coverage for the diverse audiences they serve.

The CLEF grant recipients are using Hearken and GroundSource to cover topics such as homelessness, gun violence, education, youth in foster care, the 2018 midterm elections, and more in ways that empower community members to share their insights and help shape news coverage. The first group of CLEF grantees includes a wide variety of news organizations: There are 15 local outlets, two statewide news organizations, one national publisher, nine topic-based publishers, and two universities.

Both Hearken and GroundSource 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, vote on and meaningfully participate in the stories covered. GroundSource uses mobile messaging and voice to build two-way relationships with audiences.

CLEF is supported by The News Integrity Initiative, Democracy Fund, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and Knight Foundation. The four funders are collectively contributing $650,000 to support CLEF. There will be two additional rounds of CLEF applications in 2018. Applications for the second cycle will open on May 1.

“We are so excited to see what this stellar group of newsrooms does with their ambitious and thoughtful plans in this year of listening,” Molly de Aguiar, managing director of The News Integrity Initiative, said of the recipients of this first round of CLEF.

“We were extremely pleased by the quality and diversity of the organizations that applied as well as their deep commitment to community engagement,” said Cheryl Thompson-Morton, Business & Programs Analyst at the Lenfest Institute. “We are excited to be partnering with these news outlets and are committed to providing these tools to other worthy organizations in future rounds.”

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 27% minority and 59% female, compared to 2017 ASNE diversity survey averages of 16.6% minority and 39.1% female.

“We are impressed by CLEF’s inaugural class of news outlets working to develop audience-driven storytelling,” said Paul Waters, Senior Associate at Democracy Fund. “The diversity represented within these organizations is encouraging, and we plan to work with partners like the Center for Community and Ethnic Media and the Obsidian Collection to build on our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in future grantmaking rounds.”

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.

 

About the Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF)

 

CLEF was created to help newsrooms build their muscles and workflows for listening, so they can match their strength in content creation and distribution. The word “clef” is French for “key” and is also the name of a symbol indicating musical pitch. It’s through better listening that journalists and newsrooms can work in better harmony toward an informed and empowered citizenry.

CLEF will run two more funding cycles in 2018. Applications will be open for the next cohort on May 1st, 2018. Return to this page for more information.

About The News Integrity Initiative

The News Integrity Initiative is a philanthropic fund and a global coalition of newsrooms, nonprofits, technologists, and academics to foster mutually trusting relationships between journalists and the communities they serve, while also tackling the spread of disinformation, and nurturing respectful and inclusive civic dialogue. NII is a project of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

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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Webinar

CLEF is holding a webinar on Wednesday, January 31 at 3pm Eastern, 12pm 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: Hearken, GroundSource.

Press Release

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 Hearken or GroundSource from the Community Listening and Engagement Fund.