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:


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 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:


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:


About The Listening Post Collective


The Listening Post Collective (LPC), powered by Internews, 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


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


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 and


Local News Solutions

The Lenfest Institute provides free tools and resources for local journalism leaders to develop sustainable strategies to serve their communities.

Find Your News Solution
news solution pattern