WBUR, KWSU among grantees in Knight’s community news challenge

By Dru Sefton

WBUR in Boston, Northwest Public Radio in Pullman, Wash., and The Lens, a nonprofit newsroom in New Orleans, are among 10 recipients of this year’s Knight Community Information Challenge grants to strengthen community journalism and promote government transparency.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded a total of $545,000 to the winners, each of which raised additional matching grants from community-based funders.

With $50,000 from Knight and a matching grant from the Boston Foundation, WBUR will establish a statewide education reporting project, Learning Lab. The station partnered with Glass Eye Media, founders of the Homicide Watch D.C. crime blog covering murder cases in the District of Columbia, to develop the idea.

Learning Lab aims to provide a forum for ideas to improve schools in Massachusetts. “With the tools and reporting we’ll provide,” said John Davidow, digital executive editor for WBUR, “parents and policymakers will get real information about what works and what doesn’t in education reform, and they’ll be able to participate more effectively in conversations about what to do next.”

To share news reporting across communities in central Washington state, Northwest Public Radio is pairing with KDNA, a Yakima-based Spanish-language radio station, to create bilingual, multiplatform news coverage. A reporter and university students will translate content for both stations. The partners are also working to recruit a nearby Native American station to join the effort, according to the Knight Foundation. The Yakima Valley Community Foundation is matching the $100,000 grant.

Funds awarded to The Lens of New Orleans, which includes a $50,000 matching grant from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, will back a data journalism project compiling all public contracts in the city, making them accessible and searchable, and revealing possible conflicts of interest among members of 140 boards and commissions with oversight of public contracts. A data journalist also will join the newsroom.

In addition to matching funds, the Community Information Challenge provides technical assistance and consultants to grantees, year-round training through the Knight Digital Media Center and an annual Media Learning Seminar.

The Knight Foundation established the challenge six years ago and last year extended its commitment to continue it through 2015.

This item was first published in Current, Sept. 32, 2013.
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