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Announcing the first Community Network Grant recipients

The Facebook Journalism Project (FJP) and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism are pleased to announce the first round of Community Network grant recipients. Community Network grants provide up to $25,000 to support initiatives that connect communities with local newsrooms.

Whether an individual journalist or a larger news organization is trying to build a new business around memberships, or create a tool that helps local storytellers find and engage new audiences, Community Network grants provide both financial support and advisory assistance to help local news best serve its communities. The grants place special emphasis on the needs of news deserts and underrepresented communities.

The 23 winning projects include a fresh approach to business sustainability through community-funded journalism and expansion of successful storytelling events shown to increase reader revenue and membership.

“Tyler, Texas is the diverse, complicated, rapidly growing and changing capital of East Texas, a big stretch of Texas where fascinating, important stories too often go untold and where dusty old stereotypes hang on for too long,” wrote Tasneem Raja, publisher of Tyler Loop in their grant application. “Our grant will help fund a live storytelling event in which 10 local residents share meticulously crafted true personal narratives that reflect our region’s greatest challenges and greatest opportunities.”

Grant recipients have six months to complete their projects and have agreed to share lessons that will benefit other local newsrooms.

“What’s exciting about the Community Network is that we’re able to help local publishers, large and small, test new ideas or take existing projects to the next level,” said Josh Mabry, Local News Partnerships Lead, Facebook. “Because grant winners are sharing the results of their work, they’ll be creating a rich pool of case studies that the entire industry can learn from.”

“As news revenue models become increasingly reliant on direct support from readers, publishers have both a journalistic and business imperative to ensure that their coverage is reflective of the communities they serve,” said Jim Friedlich, Lenfest Institute Executive Director & CEO. “We’re pleased that the Community Network grants will help publishers experiment with new ideas to better serve their audiences.”

In addition to reviews by staff of the Facebook Journalism Project and Lenfest, applications were reviewed by a selection committee of local news professionalsAna Mendez recently joined the Lenfest Institute to manage the grant program.

“Participating in the grant review panel gave me the opportunity to apply some of the techniques that I learned in the Facebook Accelerator program to assist other newsrooms,” said Jennie Liska, Director of Loyalty Programs, PublicSource. “I was also able to learn from my fellow panelists as we discussed the approaches that might increase newsroom community engagement.”

Grant recipients will also have the opportunity to seek project guidance from a network of Facebook Accelerator participants.

“I believe journalism changes the world for the better, but I’ve long been frustrated with a system that wouldn’t support news organizations or journalists,” said Bill Emkow, who participated in the Facebook Membership Accelerator with Bridge Magazine. “The Facebook Membership Accelerator helped shift my paradigm on how to achieve sustainability and crystalize ideas I’d been considering. I volunteered because I want other news orgs to see the same kind of success we’ve seen in such a short period of time.”

Facebook and Lenfest announced the program in May 2019. It is open to both non and for-profit news organizations as well as individual journalists. Projects do not require the use of Facebook tools or platform.

The next Community Network grant window opens July 22, 2019. Interested parties can find criteria, guidelines and links to the application at https://facebookjournalismproject.com/article/facebook-journalism-project-community-network/.

Full List of Winners:
  • 100 Days in Appalachia Pilot a network of “context” creators (rather than content creators) to help reporters/editors cover the region with nuance and depth that prevents extractive storytelling, stereotypes and simplistic narratives. Produce toolkit with guidelines on how – and how not to – cover the region for release for the 2020 election year cycle.
  • Block Club Chicago – Chicago, IL Create a fellowship to cover and host community gatherings in the underserved Far South Side.
  • Carolina Public Press – North Carolina Embed reporters in food banks across North Carolina. Conduct listening sessions with food bank clients, community forums, produce stories and two online toolkits aimed at uncovering root causes and potential solutions to hunger.
  • Chalkbeat – New York, NY Conduct a multi-city listening tour combining live events with online surveys to understand gaps in local education information. Crosstown LA, Los Angeles http://xtown.la/ Creating new products to scale up data sharing with local newsrooms.
  • Crosstown LA– Los Angeles, CA Creating new products to scale up data sharing with local newsrooms.
  • Detour Media LLC – Detroit, MI Grow membership to 50 percent of monthly revenue through a Community Powered Journalist program that includes citizen journalism trainings, public workshops, community meetings, Q&As and community interaction.
  • Documented – New York, NY Create a database sourced through public records that identifies New York companies guilty of wage theft and distribute this information to consumers.
  • EducationNC – Raleigh, NC Launch a six-month effort to build community and audience among students at North Carolina’s 58 community colleges through a series of town halls.
  • High Ground News – Memphis, TN Expanding coverage of Memphis neighborhoods to include community contributors by providing residents with tools, training, mentorship and editing support from an assigned mentor and the news team.
  • Injustice Watch – Chicago, IL Partner with community organizations and newsrooms to create a series of events called, “Know the System,” that will include panel discussions on various aspects of the criminal justice system.
  • Los Angeles Times – Los Angeles, CA Fund community forums and provide copies of monthly book selections to nonprofits and others in conjunction with the new Los Angeles Times Book Club.
  • Mississippi Today – MS Expand our Mississippi expatriates efforts with events in nearby states, a monthly newsletter and an expat Facebook group.
  • Native American Journalists Association – Norman, OK NAJA’s goal is to increase the Indigenous voice in newsrooms from 0.2 percent to 2 percent within the next 10 years by targeting Indigenous student journalists with specialized training and mentorship.
  • Newsday – Long Island, NY Pilot an obituary outreach program to tell the stories of Long Island residents currently underrepresented in media coverage.
  • Nevada Public Radio – Las Vegas, NV Collaborative reporting project focused on acute issues of rural healthcare access in Tonopah, Nevada
  • Omaha Star – Omaha, NETackle responsible neighborhood development and gentrification in one of Omaha’s historically underserved communities through collaboration with neighborhood associations and deep reporting. The process will become a template for neighborhood leaders.
  • Outlier Media – Detroit, MI Develop and test watchdog journalism products that can have value to both lower and middle income news consumers and share that research with newsrooms.
  • Radio Ambulante – New York, NY Develop and open source a platform for Listening Clubs, an engagement model for podcast listeners to organize independent gatherings based on audio journalism.
  • Salt Lake Tribune – Salt Lake City, UT Coordinate, analyze and report on a never-before conducted poll of Utah women where they face the nation’s widest wage gap. Host focus groups for targeted populations, including women of color, LGBT, youth and New Americans.
  • Spaceship Media – San Francisco, CA Partner with the local library for “On the Fence,” a conversation series aimed at building trust, connection and civic engagement in Douglas, Arizona, where a new port of entry has polarized and divided the community.
  • Texas Tribune – Austin, TX Increase audience diversification, newsletter acquisition and involvement in the next election cycle by targeting people new to Texas and/or Texas politics through an “onboarding Texans” email campaign.
  • Tyler Loop – Tyler, TX Expand successful storytelling events to promote diverse and fresh perspectives while building audience, increasing memberships and adding sponsorships.
  • WURD Radio – Philadelphia, PA Creation of community-sourced “WURD Show On The Go,” a new initiative rooted in community engagement and local news generation.