The Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF) on Friday announced that it is awarding more than $150,000 to 19 news organizations as part of its third round of grant making. CLEF is an initiative to help news organizations use audience-focused tools and services to produce more relevant and trusted coverage for the diverse audiences they serve. The fund will subsidize the costs for newsrooms to adopt tools designed for this purpose.
This round the funding will support newsrooms using three new tools: DocumentCloud/MuckRock, The Listening Post Collective’s Membership Program, and “Talk” by The Coral Project at Vox Media.
“We’re excited to add the three new tools and services as options for newsrooms receiving CLEF funds. Audience engagement is key for all news organizations, but we realize that each newsroom needs to take a unique approach to meet their community’s needs,” said Cheryl Thompson-Morton, Business & Programs Analyst Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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 Listening Post Collective is a national journalism initiative that works with local partners to engage, inform, and support communities neglected by mainstream news coverage. Their work is centered around the belief that the key to trust in local media is deeper listening and making stronger connections between journalists and the communities they serve. The Listening Post Collective offers research, resources, and mentorship for newsrooms, community groups, educators and philanthropists so that they have the skills necessary to build trust and create more relevant, inclusive and accessible reporting in their communities.
“Talk” by The Coral Project at Vox Media, helps newsrooms get closer to the communities they serve through an open source comments tool that improves dialog and increases reader loyalty.
The third cohort of CLEF grantees includes a wide variety of news organizations: there are six local outlets, five statewide news organizations, four national publishers, five topic-based publishers, one university.
CLEF is funded by a consortium of journalism and democracy-oriented foundations including The News Integrity Initiative, Democracy Fund, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
This CLEF cohort will use the tools and services to cover a diverse range of topics. The following are some examples of how newsrooms will utilize the tools in this round.
Public Access to Public Records, an open government initiative in South Carolina, will use DocumentCloud/MuckRock to publish every page of every document it receives to its website at no cost for visitors in order to increase government transparency.
Bangor Daily News, a hundred-year-old newsroom, continues to serve its readers and its advertisers with products that are relevant to the times and provide statewide coverage. It plans to foster more meaningful interactions between its reporters and its readers. It will use “Talk” to prompt questions to readers that would help keep conversations on track and have the ability to feature the best comments and reward those who contribute to the discussion.
The Conversation, US, a news site that publishes news and commentary written by academics for a general audience, plans to use The Listening Post Collective’s playbook and tools present in a practical way to engage community members on their information needs and preferences, create new mechanisms for content production and community building and connect explanatory and solutions-focused journalism to new audiences.
The Community Listening and Engagement Fund was launched in 2018 and has provided more than $500,000 to 68 newsrooms. The first two rounds of CLEF funding supported newsrooms using two community-listening services, Hearken and GroundSource. Hearken allowed the news organizations to include the public as their stories develop, from conception to publication, resulting in more inclusive, original reporting and helped newsrooms create new revenue streams. GroundSource used mobile messaging and voice to build two-way relationships with audiences.
Since the tools help newsrooms engage more diverse voices and outside perspectives in their news decision-making, the funders of CLEF sought newsrooms with a commitment to diversity in hiring and staffing their operations. Demographic data were gathered from the CLEF-awarded newsrooms. Collectively averaged, the newsrooms staffs were 25 percent minority and 53 percent female, compared to 2018 ASNE diversity survey averages of 23 percent minority and 41.2 percent female.
Here are the newsrooms receiving support:
The State – Raleigh, NC – The Coral Project
WDET – Detroit, MI – The Listening Post
The Dallas Morning News – Dallas, TX – DocumentCloud/ MuckRock
Rivard Report – San Antonio, TX – The Coral Project
Public Access to Public Records (PAPR) – South Carolina – DocumentCloud/ MuckRock
NPR Utah/KUER – Salt Lake City, UT – DocumentCloud/ MuckRock
Charleston Gazette-Mail – Charleston, West Virginia – DocumentCloud/ MuckRock
Mississippi Today – Ridgeland, MS – The Listening Post
Bangor Daily News – Bangor, ME – The Coral Project
Gatehouse Media National Data Team – Sarasota, FL – DocumentCloud/MuckRock
YES! Media – Seattle, WA – The Coral Project
The War Horse News – Richlands, NC – The Listening Post
The Investigative Fund – New York, NY – DocumentCloud/ MuckRock
InsideClimate News – Brooklyn, NY – DocumentCloud/MuckRock
America Press, Inc – New York, NY – The Coral Project
The Conversation US, Inc – Boston, MA – The Listening Post
The Marshall Project – New York, NY – DocumentCloud/ MuckRock
US Right to Know – Oakland, CA – DocumentCloud/ MuckRock
South Side Newspaper Project – Syracuse, NY – The Listening Post
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: www.newsintegrity.com.
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 www.democracyfund.org 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: www.knightfoundation.org.
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: www.lenfestinstitute.org.
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 www.listeningpostcollective.org
About The Coral Project
The Coral Project from Vox Media Inc. 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 www.coralproject.net
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 superpowers right from Slack.