Lenfest Institute for Journalism launches $1 million in local news and information innovation grants, entrepreneur in residence program

PHILADELPHIA (June 5, 2017) — The Lenfest Institute for Journalism today announced it is opening applications for up to $1 million in grants to fund innovation in local news and information products, along with an entrepreneur in residence program for individuals.

The funding is focused on new approaches to sustaining local journalism in Philadelphia and similar metro regions around the U.S.

“The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is built on a ‘venture philanthropy’ model, pairing a non-profit structure with an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Jim Friedlich, the institute’s executive director. “We encourage bold risk-taking on projects with the potential for major payoffs, recognizing some attempts at transformation will deliver important new insights even if missing the mark on desired outcomes.”

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is a non-profit organization devoted to preserving and advancing local journalism nationwide. The institute was founded in 2016 by cable television entrepreneur H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, who also donated ownership of the Philadelphia Media Network (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and philly.com) to the institute. It is a goal of the institute and these new funding programs to use Philadelphia as a test lab for news innovation and sustainability.

The funding will support new products to engage and inform the public in regional news markets across the country, helping launch sustainable new businesses. Burt Herman, the institute’s director of innovation projects, will oversee the grant and residency programs.

A former reporter and bureau chief for The Associated Press, Mr. Herman co-founded two successful entrepreneurial journalism efforts: Storify, a social media storytelling platform, and Hacks/Hackers, the largest global grassroots movement bringing together journalists with technologists.

“We are excited to accelerate the Lenfest Institute’s work at the intersection of news, technology, and innovation,” Herman said. “These programs will help promising ideas in the business of local journalism reach the next level, whether from individuals, companies or academic institutions.”

The institute is accepting applications for two types of grants: “Experimentation” grants to seed new projects, for up to $35,000, and “Amplification” grants to help existing projects expand, for up to $100,000.

Entrepreneurs in residence will be experts in user-centered design, news technology, data science, marketing and business development and other fields, who seek space to explore new projects aligned with the institute’s mission. Residencies will last 3-6 months and include up to a $10,000 monthly stipend for work in Philadelphia or remotely. Along with their own projects, entrepreneurs in residence will act as sector experts and mentors for other projects affiliated with the institute.

The institute seeks applications for grants and residencies in the following focus areas:

  • News and Information Products: New approaches to collecting news and information, and to reporting, storytelling and distribution that embrace the potential of technology, expand audiences, deepen relationships with existing readers and ultimately lead to business sustainability.
  • Reaching Underserved Communities: Meaningful approaches to reach and empower people in diverse local communities who are generally underserved by mainstream news media.
  • New revenue sources: New business models for local news and information products that assure sustainability.
  • Community Engagement: New methods to engage deeply with the local community, whether in-person or digitally. Rethinking the relationship between media and the public, which may lead to new forms of financial support.
  • Local News Ecosystem Collaboration: Bringing together existing and new players in novel ways to fuel new forms of media, cost-efficiency, impact and sustainability.

Grantees who will use the Philadelphia metro area as a test market are especially encouraged, and will be offered the opportunity to work with and leverage the resources and reach of the Philadelphia Media Network and other local partners. The institute is also strongly interested in applicants from major metro areas across the United States for projects which could be applied to Philadelphia and scaled to similar metro areas.

For more information and to apply, please go to https://www.lenfestinstitute.org/grants/ or https://www.lenfestinstitute.org/residencies/. To subscribe to institute news and updates, please sign up at https://www.lenfestinstitute.org/subscribe/.

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