The American Press Institute today announced that 10 local news organizations will receive funding through the Local News Ideas-to-Action Fund, API’s new initiative to support accountability and government reporting that better prioritizes the needs of local communities.
The selected projects reflect a deep commitment from journalists and their organizations toward understanding and responding to the information and access gaps around issues of housing, transportation, public health, and more, in service of local residents. Organizations receiving funding range from legacy newspapers and public radio to newsletter-based and other digital news sites, for-profit and nonprofit.
News organizations this month will begin their projects, all of which are intended to allow roughly 12 weeks to experiment with new forms of audience-centered journalism. The projects were selected for a range of criteria, including potential insights for other journalists and the news organizations’ own potential to build on the work after the projects end.
The news organizations receiving funding are:
- El Tímpano (Oakland, CA)
- The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, CO)
- Gettysburg Connection (Gettysburg, PA)
- The Keene Sentinel (Keene, NH)
- Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
- New Hampshire Public Radio (NH)
- Nuestro Estado (Charleston, SC)
- Planet Detroit (Detroit, MI)
- PublicSource (Pittsburgh, PA)
- Washington City Paper (Washington, D.C.)
The Ideas-to-Action Fund received 74 applications representing projects from 28 states, plus the District of Columbia. The application period followed a series of other events featuring insights and project feedback from leading practitioners of community-centered journalism: Jimmy Gutierrez of Outlier Media, Nicolás Ríos of Documented and Megan Griffith-Greene of the Philadelphia Inquirer, with more than 150 journalists participating in the series overall.
“We are inspired not only by the recipients but by the overall quality of the applicant pool, which suggests a growing interest in tailoring local accountability reporting to the information needs of local communities,” says Amy Kovac-Ashley, API executive vice president and chief of news transformation. “We look forward to learning alongside these 10 newsrooms as they implement their efforts, building both a foundation for more of this work at their organization and more insights for the field.”
The 10 projects accounted for $80,000 in total funding from API to local news organizations. API contributed the largest share of funding to the Ideas-to-Action Fund and sought additional contributions, which came from the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund and the Waterman II Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation. Knight-Lenfest’s contribution allowed API to give additional awards to alumni of Table Stakes programs; three local news organizations were selected. API had sole oversight in the selection of recipients and program design.
Team members working on these projects will engage and connect with other recipients to share goals, challenges and insights for building upon this audience-centered form of journalism.
Below are more details on the news organizations’ projects:
El Tímpano (Oakland, CA)
El Tímpano will pilot a participatory WhatsApp channel with information on local resources and civic affairs for Mam Mayan immigrants in the Bay Area. Through WhatsApp, El Tímpano will share information primarily via audio and video messages in the Mam Mayan language, and invite subscribers to respond with their questions and comments via audio message as well. Content will focus on supporting Mayan indigenous immigrants to navigate relevant local resources and services, understand how local government and municipal agencies work, and connect them with opportunities to have their voices heard by community and civic leaders.
The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, CO)
The Coloradoan will collaborate with Colorado State University’s Center for Public Deliberation, CSU’s departments of Journalism & Media Communication and Political Science, local libraries and other Northern Colorado news sources to improve the local information ecosystem by engaging a broader, more inclusive range of voices; expanding fact-checking and quality control mechanisms; and developing the skills to frame local issues using deliberative methods that help people engage those issues more productively.
Gettysburg Connection (Gettysburg, PA)
The Gettysburg Connection will engage Spanish-speaking residents of Adams County through text messaging to provide information and resources on housing, transportation, public health, and other local issues pertinent to this community.
The Keene Sentinel (Keene, NH)
The Keene Sentinel will identify and share resources for people on the “homelessness spectrum” as part of a reporting project exploring the history, causes and potential solutions to housing challenges in the state. The Sentinel will leverage community partnerships and text-messaging to reach audiences experiencing homelessness.
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress will create a guide to the land development process in the city of Asheville and Buncombe County, explaining how different projects move through different stages of governmental review on their way to approval or denial and what aspects of projects are considered by different boards, commissions, and elected bodies. The resource will place particular attention on the avenues for public input available at each step to better support public participation in local decision making.
New Hampshire Public Radio (NH)
New Hampshire Public Radio will expand its reporting on the state’s housing crisis by building a “Know Your Housing Rights” toolkit for local tenants, a series of resource guides in multiple languages to help people navigate their interactions with public systems that shape housing access, affordability and dignity. The toolkit will include relevant resources based on assessed audience needs, such as finding emergency rental aid, figuring out what public officials to contact if they have a problem with their landlord, engaging with local boards that shape housing policies or understanding the right to live in safe housing conditions.
Nuestro Estado (Charleston, SC)
Nuestro Estado will expand reporting for Spanish-speaking audiences across South Carolina, with a focus on access to public services. Nuestro Estado will emphasize video content and distribution via WhatsApp.
Planet Detroit (Detroit, MI)
Planet Detroit will explore how local utilities are planning for climate change and how the funding structures, operations, and inequities built into the governance of the region’s electric and water utilities impact that planning in the context of recent heavy rains and infrastructure failures. Planet Detroit will seek to understand residents’ questions and information needs by attending public meetings, hosting listening sessions, and engaging with our readers to shape an explainer series on understanding the local water and electric utilities in the climate-change era.
PublicSource (Pittsburgh, PA)
PublicSource will engage audiences in two “undercovered” Pittsburgh-area communities to understand information needs about local government and community and offer explanatory content in new formats to fill information gaps.
Washington City Paper (Washington, D.C.)
Washington City Paper will offer reporting and informational resources directly to immigrant business owners based on identified language, cultural, informational, and business needs through text messaging, events, and direct outreach. Engagement with the local business community on issues of local governance will also inform local reporting across beats.
About the American Press Institute
The American Press Institute advances an innovative and sustainable news industry by helping publishers understand and engage audiences, grow revenue, improve public-service journalism, and succeed at organizational change. It is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization affiliated with the News Media Alliance.