The Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund was created to support Philadelphia-area media and other community organizations as they work tirelessly to meet the information needs of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable communities at this time of acute need.
The $2.5 million Fund was created by The Independence Public Media Foundation (IPMF), The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund (Knight-Lenfest)
To support Philadelphia-area media and other community organizations as they work to meet the news and information needs of Philadelphia’s diverse and marginalized communities that leads to informed decision-making and resiliency both at this time of acute need and for the long-term.
Philadelphia area communities need reliable, accurate news and information that is responsive to needs and creates opportunity for dialogue, reflection and informed decision-making. As a result, the Fund’s grantmaking focused on the following areas:
- News and Information on public health and economic relief for vulnerable communities that addresses health and other structural disparities (economic, social or environmental) and contributing factors
- News and information generated by and for diverse communities with emphasis on sharing their stories, experiences, expertise, and solutions
- Infrastructure needs of news and media organizations required to better cover the health, social, and economic impact of COVID-19, to be responsive to community needs and to support new forms of storytelling – amplifying the lived experience, utilizing data, deepening engagement, listening to and co-creation with communities
- Civic and community systems needs by providing news and information that addresses the evolution and reinvention of key systems such as, but not limited to, food security, health care, employment/economy, education, mass incarceration, or the 2020 election and Census
The Fund’s grantmaking has supported the following initiatives:
Grant amount: $1 million
Resolve Philly, which leads a collaborative of 24 Philadelphia-area news organizations, will serve as the backbone for a coordinated city-wide, crisis response plan that provides vital news and information access and is powered by its partners and other local organizations and institutions. Partners will collaborate to gather, produce, and disseminate localized, urgent, and up-to-date reporting and public health information.
Resolve is creating a comprehensive digital information hub, in the form of an FAQ, that will feature regularly updated answers to frequently asked questions on the coronavirus crisis and related health and economic challenges. The questions will be sourced by partner newsrooms using SMS text messaging and online survey call-outs. Resolve partner newsrooms, Resolve staff, and freelance journalists assigned to member organizations will collaborate to answer the questions and also publish in Spanish and other languages.
The information resource will be published using an open-source web development framework developed by Distributed Media Lab, and based upon the Google AMP standard, that will allow the resource to be easily republished on any website.
From this grant, Resolve will also help distribute funding to key partners through public service advertising, sponsored content, and other means.
Grant amount: $350,000
WHYY will launch The News and Information Community Exchange, a collective of grassroots content creators who will share news, information, resources and best practices aimed at engaging underserved communities in Philadelphia.
Through the Exchange there will be a focus on closing trust and power gaps between mainstream organizations and communities of color by collaborating with and amplifying those who already are delivering vital information to their communities, from the church newsletter to neighborhood publishers to up-and-coming creators. This is especially important because of COVID-19, which exposes inequities in healthcare, education and economics that already existed.
As the long-term impact of the coronavirus crisis on communities becomes more evident, WHYY plans to partner with already civic-minded individuals and organizations who regularly interact with, and provide information to their communities through newsletters, hyperlocal newspapers, community organization communications, blogs, Facebook live broadcasts, podcasts, original videos, and flyers to co-design ways to re-imagine and deepen news engagement, while anticipating, reflecting, and meeting the information needs of residents.
Grant amount: $250,000
The Inquirer Community News Service will support a growing series of listening and engagement efforts that leverage the resources and reach of The Inquirer, the largest news operation in the Philadelphia region, to bring reporting to underrepresented communities in Philadelphia and to share the voices of communities across the city with broader audiences.
The Community News Service will feature an expansion of Curious Philly, The Inquirer’s listening platform that enables community members to get questions answered by Inquirer reporters. The Inquirer will also launch a text message-based news service that will allow readers to submit questions and share tips directly to the newsroom.
The Inquirer will also expand El Inquirer, its Spanish-language coverage. El Inquirer both translates stories into Spanish and publishes original Spanish-language journalism. Its stories are published both on inquirer.com and as part of Resolve Philadelphia’s Broke in Philly collaboration. The added funding will allow El Inquirer to support staff and use tools such as text messaging to continue to serve the community.
“From the Front Lines” is an ongoing Inquirer series featuring first-person narratives from healthcare workers, and other essential employees who are working during the pandemic. The Inquirer will expand the series to include the voices of the most vulnerable, the most hard-hit, and the most diverse representation of Philadelphians in crisis and in healing.
These initiatives build upon a $3 million investment from the Knight-Lenfest Fund in September 2019 that enabled new product development at The Philadelphia Inquirer emphasizing community-focused journalism.
Grant amount: $170,000
WURD Radio, Philadelphia’s leading Black talk radio station, will launch Lively-HOOD, a multimedia initiative including radio, digital, and event programming that is designed to connect Philadelphians with employment opportunities, career readiness information, entrepreneurship, small business, and financial literacy resources.
Lively-HOOD will examine the new job and business opportunities that will evolve out of the COVID-19 crisis and the many new issues that will inform people’s choices as they seek to find dignity, security and meaning in their lives through work. A new paradigm is emerging as a result of the coronavirus. Small businesses are being deeply impacted by the widespread economic devastation, which directly impacts access to jobs, resources and opportunities. The success of the small business sector in the Black community is connected to the health and well being of the community.
WURD will host on-air tutorials which will be supplemented by online micro-summits, workshops, and one-on-one interviews conducted via video call in an effort to connect people looking for work with jobs, career readiness, small business support, and entrepreneurship opportunities. WURD will also function as a watchdog to make sure that governmental, corporate, and non-profit resources aimed at supporting small businesses and low-income families are reaching the intended targets.
AI For the People (Philadelphia-region community partner: Little Giant Creative)
Grant amount: $50,000
AI for the People plans to develop a Twitter campaign to reduce online engagement with COVID-19-related disinformation targeted at Black Philadelphians. The team will analyze trending topics on Twitter and then create campaigns to help Black Twitter users identify and refute disinformation.
Grant amount: $50,000
Big Picture Alliance’s COmmunity VIDeo (COVID) Resiliency Project is an interactive social media campaign and web series created by and for Philadelphia youth as a platform to share stories, information, and dialogue around COVID-related issues impacting their communities. The goal is to cultivate an engaging virtual space where marginalized Philadelphia youth can easily share their perspectives, access resources, and advocate for solutions around health and wellness, education and employment, and civic engagement.
Grant amount: $50,200
Comadre Luna Collective is a Spanish-langauge network promoting female leadership through a short biweekly podcast with information and resources for immigrant communities facing COVID-19, an hour-long monthly narrative storytelling podcast, a digital zine focused on topics such as gender inequities and violence against women, and a series of webinars focused on digital literacy to help immigrant women navigate access to critical resources.
Grant amount: $100,000
This project, a collaboration between G-Town Radio and the Germantown Info Hub, will build upon a pilot call-in radio program started in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to create an ongoing weekly news show. It will develop the capacity of all partners to provide coverage of community issues and create a structure for them to facilitate storytelling by and for Germantown residents.
Grant amount: $50,000
The Village Information Power Network is a community news and information hub in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas that will create an SMS-based neighborhood engagement and information platform, deploy a mapping platform and website to catalog information on available local resources, and a series of virtual trainings to improve media literacy.
Grant amount: $100,000
Media in Neighborhoods Group will engage a cohort of men and women that have recently returned from prison to tell their own stories through video, audio, and photography. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately affect communities of color and people in prison, this group’s lens adds invaluable perspectives to the existing news media infrastructure
New Mainstream Press, Inc.
Grant amount: $60,000
New Mainstream Press, Inc. publishes two weekly newspapers, Metro Chinese Weekly and Metro Viet News, and two WeChat-based digital publications, PhillyGuide and Chinese Business 2.0. This grant will enable New Mainstream Press to grow its staff to continue to provide essential news for the Philadelphia-area Asian community
Nueva Esperanza, Inc. (Esperanza)
Grant amount: $55,000
Esperanza, which publishes the Spanish-language Impacto community newspaper, will expand and amplify its immediate coverage of health, economic, and community empowerment. It will also create a network of community writers to report their own stories. Impacto will provide training, equipment, and compensation to empower local solutions journalism that will focus on inequities in the Latinx community and elevate grassroots voices.
Grant amount: $70,000
The Pennsylvania Prison Society will help fill the gaps in information about how the pandemic is affecting incarcerated individuals. It will report on and collect data about the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania’s prison system. The society will incorporate data visualizations into its reporting on the spread of the virus, and it will also disseminate its coverage to families and loved ones of those who are incarcerated as well as media outlets across the state while creating a guide for reporters covering prisons in Pennsylvania.
Grant amount: $40,000
Supportive Older Women’s Network is a pioneering non-profit that has developed innovative solutions to enhance the quality of life of older adults and their families for over 35 years. It will create a COVID-19 news and information service tailored specifically for the vulnerable population of low-income, isolated seniors. SOWN will design and produce an engaging, simple-to-read newsletter highlighting the latest COVID news, identifying services and supports, describing how to access benefits, and other important information.
Grant amount: $50,000
The COVID-19 pandemic is raising tensions and exacerbating previously entrenched and severe economic distress in many Philadelphia neighborhoods. The Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting will launch a new Center for Gun Violence Reporting to change the narrative around gun violence, prevent shootings, and save lives. The Center will improve reporting practices by collaborating with with partners and long-standing local organizations to raise voices from the community and redefine who will be recognized as expert sources. The Center will be housed at the Institute for Community Engagement and Civic Leadership at Community College of Philadelphia and led by Jim MacMillan, a fellow with the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.
The Plug (Philadelphia-region community partner: WURD Radio)
Grant amount: $75,000
The Plug endeavors to launch a one-year multimedia collaborative with WURD Radio and additional partners to provide thoughtful explanatory journalism, feature stories, topical radio segments, and virtual events featuring local leaders and innovators providing a lens into how Black and Latinx communities are experiencing and navigating the innovation economy. They will also tap into the vast wealth of talent in Philly’s Black and Brown tech communities to give first-person accounts of their challenges, triumphs, and experiences working in a COVID-19 world.
If you are an individual, business, or foundation concerned about your community’s access to trusted and accurate information throughout this crisis and beyond, but don’t know how best to support them, we welcome your partnership. We work with a wide range of partners, from news outlets and libraries to other trusted community sources. Your contribution can help support their ability to keep people safe and informed. If you or your organization wish to join as a partner to the Fund in support of your local community, you can contribute directly at lenfestinstitute.org/covid19support
If you’d like additional information or have any questions about making a gift, you may contact Lenfest Institute Director of Advancement Rebecca Forman at [email protected].