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J-Lab Announces Funding for Community News Web Sites

By Maggie Barrett

J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, a center of American University’s School of Communication, is calling for a new round of grant proposals to fund New Voices community news start-ups around the country. Eight projects will each receive up to $25,000 in grants during the course of two years.

The deadline for this year’s proposals is Thursday, February 12, 2009. Eligibility guidelines and the online application are available at the New Voices Web site.

The eight projects to be funded in 2009 will join 40 other New Voices start-ups that have received micro-grants since 2005. The projects have been selected from 845 proposals.

This year, New Voices project funding has increased to $25,000 from $17,000 over two years as part of a new J-Lab grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to seed micro-local news projects, support them with an educational Web site (the Knight Citizen News Network), and help foster their sustainability with second-year matching grants. 

The 2009 projects will receive $17,000 the first year and are eligible for $8,000 in matching support the second year.

At least three of the 2009 grants are targeted for news initiatives in the 26 communities where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers, but projects from all parts of the U.S. are encouraged to apply.

“We are especially seeking ideas from people who find something missing from their local media landscape and crave news and information that engages and builds a sense of community,” said Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab, which administers the program.  

Eligible to receive New Voices funding are 501(c)3 organizations and education institutions or individuals working under the sponsorship of a nonprofit fiscal agent. Only start-up projects may receive funding; ongoing efforts are not eligible unless they are proposing a new venture.

Projects can produce news and information for a geographic area, such as a town or county. Or they can serve a community of interest.

All New Voices projects must develop a publicly accessible, regularly updated Web site to showcase their efforts, and have a plan for generating a steady flow of fresh content year-round.