The American Press Institute will partner with 17 news organizations in launching and expanding projects to promote and strengthen civic discourse in their communities through its Civic Discourse and Community Voices Fund.

The projects will start immediately and run for four months, during which the news organizations will convene events, try new coverage approaches or embark on other projects aimed at encouraging local residents to engage in valuable conversations about the most pressing issues they face. 

The funding is part of API’s ongoing examination into how local news organizations can facilitate conversations that include a wide array of voices and help connect residents to share ideas that help them and their communities thrive. 

“Local news organizations and journalists succeed best when they understand the people in their communities and build civic, cultural and social connections that deepen their coverage and develop trusted relationships with residents,” said Michael D. Bolden, CEO and executive director of API. “These news organizations will connect people with each other and with ideas that make their communities–and our democracy–better.”

Experiments enabled by the grants are expected to help news organizations learn and build toward long-term civic discourse initiatives, including through the 2024 election year and beyond. A key feature of API’s experiment funds is the opportunity for recipients to share with their peers and learn from one another through informal virtual events and connections they make among themselves. Many of the lessons and insights will be made public so that other newsrooms can learn from the experiences. 

The 17 news organizations represent both local and regional audiences in 11 states and nationwide communities with shared interests. They include:

2023 Civic Discourse and Community Voices Fund

The Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona) will use video to expand the voices of African Americans, Latinos and immigrant rights leaders represented in its opinion section, including beyond those interested in writing a traditional column.

The Atlanta Voice (Atlanta, Georgia) will develop and launch WAREhouse Studios, an in-house digital and podcast facility to broaden reach and facilitate civic discourse about important issues facing Atlanta’s Black community.

Cardinal News (Roanoke, Virginia) will partner with the Roanoke Collaboration Project to give people in their demographically and politically changing communities tools to engage in constructive dialogue. This includes creating an op-ed forum on their website. 

City Limits (New York, New York) will focus reporting, commentary, events and multimedia toward helping tenants of the New York City Housing Authority, the country’s largest public housing community, make informed decisions and have agency over how their community is run. The project centers on an important vote about the NYCHA’s future, including how funding for repairs works.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, Colorado) will work with the Colorado State University Center for Public Deliberation to provide Spanish-language reporting and dialogue opportunities centered around the 2023 Fort Collins and Poudre School District election.

The Haitian Times (nationwide) will conduct listening tours virtually and in-person in cities beyond the largest Haitian populations of New York City and Miami, collaborating with local organizations, clergy members, and entrepreneurs to gain an understanding of community experiences and needs in lesser-known enclaves. The project will surface shared experiences across communities through use of

Houston Defender Network (Houston, Texas) will host a roundtable event with one of its target audiences, Houston residents younger than 40, to inform coverage and build relationships for a future advisory group. The event will create an engaging environment, followed by a “Big Exchange or Pearls of Wisdom,” where older participants share wise counsel with younger participants.

KOSU and “Focus: Black Oklahoma” (Stillwater, Oklahoma) will host community conversations in quickly diversifying rural communities to build relationships and gain perspectives under-represented in media focused on Oklahoma’s capital.

Minnesota Public Radio (Saint Paul, Minnesota) will develop “Talking Sense,” a community platform aimed at helping people preserve interpersonal relationships despite differences in opinion. To inform the effort, news staff will use digital tools to understand common claims the community is interested in verifying, and news leaders will receive conversation coaching from Braver Angels.

Mississippi Free Press and Mississippi Youth Media Project (Jackson, Mississippi) will convene “solution circles” in multiple Mississippi counties to expand community discourse around urgent public-policy issues that affect residents across racial, cultural and political divides.

The Oaklandside (Oakland, California) will enhance its “as-told-to” first-person storytelling series titled Amplify Oakland, which helps community members share lived experiences on issues of public interest. They will highlight different perspectives on public safety in East and West Oakland flatland neighborhoods, including in collaboration with El Tímpano and Oakland Voices.

Radio Ambulante Studios (nationwide) will grow its “Listening Clubs” — events where listeners meet in person, hear an episode of the podcast about Latin American and US Latinx communities, and use the story as a point of departure for wide-ranging conversations. The project includes improving the technology to facilitate these clubs.

The Daily Catch (Red Hook, New York) will create a Spanish-language print newspaper centered on their community’s annual Dia de Muertos celebration. The initiative is designed to show support for the holiday, engage with the growing Hispanic population in Hudson Valley, and increase awareness of the online news source intended for all residents.

The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah) will hold a series of discourse sessions within Utah’s Latino community that span across political affiliation, religion, socioeconomic background and country of origin to create a Latino Community Panel, as well as videos and columns, that will help guide future discourse with the community.

The Times Union (Albany, New York) will solicit short video statements or written responses at pop-up newsrooms to expand the range of voices amplified in their opinion coverage. The mobile newsroom effort is intended to create a snapshot of community values and concerns and expand the Perspective section’s horizons beyond advocacy pieces and policy debates.

Vinegar Hill and “In My Humble Opinion” Radio Talk Show (Charlottesville, Virginia) will partner to host “Can I Talk to You, Cville?,” a quarterly series of conversations that explore the intersection of media and public policy, with a focus on local communities of color. The events, organized by the two Black community outlets but welcoming people from all walks of life, will provide a forum for community members to share their thoughts.

The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kansas) will expand its op-ed efforts to solicit and translate columns to better represent races, ethnicities and growing refugee population experiences in south-central Kansas. Columns will be offered to media partners in the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.

This 2023 Civic Discourse and Community Voices Fund builds on previous API programs aimed at helping news organizations to improve and innovate their coverage of elections and local governance.

Funders and other organizations interested in helping expand API’s programs aimed at helping news organizations engage their communities through civic discourse, audience listening and innovation in coverage of democratic systems may contact Michael D. Bolden, CEO and executive director, and Kevin Loker, director of strategic partnerships and research. 

About the American Press Institute

The American Press Institute helps develop, support and sustain healthy local news organizations with a focus on civic discourse and democracy; culture and inclusion; community engagement and trust; and revenue and resilience. We believe that for democracies to thrive, people need accurate news and information about their communities, the problems of civil society and the debates over how to solve them. That requires a financially sustainable free press that reflects the diversity of American society and understands the needs of its communities. API is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization affiliated with the News Media Alliance.

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