New Mexico News Port, other J-school collabs win grants from ONA challenge fund

By Andrew Lapin

A collaborative news hub in New Mexico, an effort to monitor sea levels in south Florida and a music-visualization project in Texas are among the 12 winners of grants from this year’s Online News Association Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education.

The seed grants, worth $35,000 each, go to journalism schools pursuing community-engagement projects. ONA announced the winners Friday. Seven of the winning schools are partnering with public and/or nonprofit media organizations.

“We’re delighted to see and support so many community-centric ideas in so many schools across the land,” ONA Executive Director Jane McDonnell wrote in a post announcing the winners. The four foundations supporting the Challenge Fund — the Democracy Fund, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation — narrowed down selections from 125 applications.

Among the winners was the New Mexico News Port, a statewide hub for news curation headed by the University of New Mexico. Michael Marcotte, a new professor at UNM’s journalism school and the author of the Public Radio News Directors Handbook, is leading the project. The News Port is partnering with KUNM-FM and KNME-TV, the state’s pubradio and pubTV networks, in addition to UNM student newspaper The Daily Lobo.

Other pubmedia and nonprofit media winners of ONA grants:

  • Finding the Middle Ground, a reporting and engagement project focusing on the topic of gun use, from Arizona State University. The school’s Knight Foundation–funded student news service News21 will draw from American Public Media’s Public Insight Network to build a public-interest database.
  • Sea Level Rise South Florida, a crowdsourced data project to measure rising ocean levels in the Sunshine State. Florida International University will collaborate with South Florida’s pubTV station WPBT2 and its reporting series on the coastline, Changing Seas.
  • NewsPoints, a tool to help community reporters track interviews, data and other information related to their stories. San Diego State University is collaborating with nonprofit bilingual newspaper El Tecalote to test the resource with student reporters.
  • TexasMusicViz, a story-visualization project centered on music reporting. NPR Music and Austin’s KUT will consult with Texas State University journalism students on the project.
  • Talk With Us, an online engagement project to connect residents of Oklahoma’s low-income neighborhoods with community leaders. The University of Oklahoma is partnering with nonprofit investigative newsroom Oklahoma Watch to distribute reporting from the project to media outlets across the state.
  • The Confluence, a project combining student reporters and volunteer monitors to track the quality of Wisconsin’s water. The University of Wisconsin–Madison journalism school will partner with the nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, which uses UW’s campus for office space but is organizationally independent.

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