NPR Story
10:23 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Innovation Trail and WXXI take lead with new upstate community media engagement project

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 10:52 am

WXXI Public Broadcasting is spearheading YelleR, an exciting new media initiative that will bring upstate New York community organizations together in a bold citizen journalism project.  The project is funded by a $28,000 grant from the INNovation Fund, a partnership between the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Investigative News Network, and substantial in-kind support. WXXI was one of eight news organizations awarded an INNovation Fund grant designed to encourage nonprofit newsrooms to undertake innovative projects that will bring their organizations closer to sustainability.

YelleR, which is scheduled to be developed and roll out over 18 months, will involve the creation of an easy-to-use Citizen Journalism mobile app, community outreach and engagement campaign supported by social media, a series of training workshops, and a number of coordinated ‘story events’ – all designed to encourage people to dig deep and find their ‘inner storyteller.’ The app will be available in English and Spanish with other languages to follow.

The Investigate News Network made the following comments about the project:

“Reviewers loved this project, especially as it looks to broaden WXXI’s consumption of content to underserved minorities and people under the age of 30.  There is some risk to it but they have the resources to pull it off. The project is highly replicable and a bright spot for public media and nonprofit investigative newsrooms’ future partnerships, especially as a creative way of helping underserved communities.”

Users will be able to report, document, and share their opinions on significant community topics like transportation, health, sports, education, politics, and culture. The content will be collected in an online content sharing platform that reflects the reality of life in upstate New York communities. That content will also flow through broadcast and online outlets through upstate public media.

“This kind of initiative is arguably long overdue,” said WXXI News’ Innovation Trail Editor Matthew Leonard, who will serve as project coordinator. “While there have definitely been some attempts to create a platform for quality citizen journalism in the region, the very high level of buy-in from  a formidable range of community partners, the enormous advances in mobile technology, and the valuable support of the INNovation Fund all point to this being a really exciting time to undertake this kind of project.”

Project partners for YelleR include WDKX, Hacks/Hackers Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology’s faculty of Journalism, and the Department of Adolescence Education at Nazareth College.  “We are especially excited to be a part of this effort and to bring our students into the mix,” explains Patrick Scanlon, Professor and Chairman from RIT’s Department of Communication.

Administered by the Investigative News Network, the INNovation Fund is one part of Knight's Local Media Initiative that aims to help nonprofit news organizations establish long-term sustainability. The initiative comprises various other investments in the space, including $5 million in grants to over 25 local online news organizations.

“The INNovation Fund was created to cultivate experimentation and new ideas in newrooms,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice-president of journalism and media innovation. “The hope is that fund recipients that have already shown promise, can help create a standard for innovation in newsrooms and strengthen the future of nonprofit news and public media organizations.”

YelleR was one of only eight INNovation grants awarded out of a competitive field of 180 applicants. This was the first round of grants awarded. More information about INNovation Fund recipients is available at http://investigativenewsnetwork.org/innovation.

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About WXXI

WXXI is the essential, life-long educational media resource for the Greater Rochester area. WXXI puts the community first with programming that stimulates and expands thought, inspires the spirit, opens cultural horizons and promotes understanding of diverse community issues. WXXI also has a long-term affiliation with Little Theatre, which helps enhance the cultural life of the community and strengthens two of Rochester's most vital arts institutions. Log on to wxxi.org for more information about our services and programs.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

About the Investigative News Network

The Investigative News Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization dedicated to advancing excellence and sustainability in the nonprofit investigative and public service sector. INN was founded in 2009 to help the increasing number of nonprofit newsrooms produce and distribute stories with impact, achieve cost efficiencies by pooling resources, and develop new revenue streams to become sustainable businesses.  For more, visit www.InvestigativeNewsNetwork.org or follow us on Twitter @INN.