Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund announces $750,000 in grants to support news and information efforts to aid pandemic recovery

The Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund on Thursday announced it was awarding $750,000 in grants to 12 organizations to use news and information to empower vulnerable communities to make more informed decisions and support resiliency efforts in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The grantees represent a diverse cohort of news organizations and community groups that are focused on using emerging technologies, creating collaborations, and building new information sharing models that will create a more equitable media ecosystem for all Philadelphia-area residents both during this moment of immediate crisis and through longer term resiliency and reinvention efforts in the coming months.

The Fund’s grantmaking is led by the Independence Public Media Foundation (IPMF) and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund (Knight-Lenfest Fund), and is focused on four core areas: news and information on public health and economic relief, news and information generated by and for diverse communities, the infrastructure needs of news and media organizations to better respond to community needs, and news and information that addresses key systems that perpetuate societal inequities. 

“Channeling Philadelphia’s spirit, we asked applicants to share with us what love looks like in action. This group of grantees exemplifies those defining characteristics with a mutual-aid approach to news and information” said Roxann Stafford, managing director of the Knight-Lenfest Fund. “Their work and values are rooted in sustained personal relationships that combine the lived experience with data and research in order to address existing inequalities that have been amplified by the pandemic. When information is provided in a way that resonates and respects the community, people are able to make the best decisions for themselves, their communities, and those they love.”

The $2.5 million Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund was created in April 2020 in response to the pandemic. Established by the IPMF and the Knight-Lenfest Fund in partnership with The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Fund supports a broad array of media and other community organizations as they provide accurate and actionable information.

In April, the Fund announced its first grants — totaling $1.75 million — to support Resolve Philly, WHYY, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and WURD Radio as they cover the coronavirus pandemic and its ongoing impacts on Philadelphians. 

The Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund welcomes additional contributions. If you or your organization wish to join as a partner to the Fund in support of your local community, please visit lenfestinstitute.org/covid19support.

The Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund grantees are: 

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. 

Big Picture Alliance

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. 

Comadre Luna Collective

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. 

G-Town Radio

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.

M & G Associates, LLC

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. 

Media In Neighborhood Group

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. 

Pennsylvania Prison Society

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. 

Supportive Older Women’s Network

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.

The Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting

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.

About The Independence Public Media Foundation

The Independence Public Media Foundation funds and supports creative, community-centered media and media making across Greater Philadelphia. Through grant-making and other programs, the Foundation supports building and strengthening networks of people creating and sharing information, ideas, and stories for change and justice. For more information, visit www.IndependenceMedia.org.

About The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund

With a focus on sustainability and equity, The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, is designed to strengthen local journalism at scale, by supporting  journalistic excellence and serving the information needs of communities. The Knight-Lenfest Fund collaborates with news organizations, leaders and communities to grow capacity and meet journalism’s technology, business, and audience realities of the future. The Fund believes that journalism is at its best when it is of service.

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. The Institute is the parent organization of The Philadelphia Inquirer, a for-profit public benefit corporation dedicated to serving the people of the Philadelphia region.

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. Learn more at kf.org.

AP Photo by Patrick Semansky

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