William Penn Foundation three-year $2.4 million investment in Philly journalism

The William Penn Foundation board of directors has pledged a three-year $2.4 million grant to Temple University to incubate “a new organization designed to strengthen our region’s capacity for professionally-produced public interest journalism,” as described by strategic consultant Michael Greenle.

“This will fund journalism, support other outlets and find and cover gaps in coverage,” said Greenle in a small meeting of stakeholders yesterday. It may likely take at least a year for real momentum to happen here. Various matching grant efforts are expected to boost that overall total, in addition to future revenue plans, Greenle said.

In 2011, the grant would create a collaborative Center for Public Interest Journalism housed at Temple, which would serve three main functions:

  1. ‘One Stop Shopping’ — Centralized resources from Temple that could benefit public affairs journalism in the region (like MPIP, the computer science program, the journalism program) to be offered to partners in some way.
  2. Incubate Collaboration — This center will incubate a collaborative effort that will take a more active role in public affairs journalism that could very well look like this or portions of this. Or not. That’s to be left up to senior staff, as explained below.
  3. Host Events — Create a broader dialogue among journalists by housing the existing Phiji series and, as I thought, perhaps involving the BarCamp NewsInnovation event we and Technically Philly have put hosted at Temple.

The foundation’s interest in this space was first addressed publicly here after a stakeholders meeting last January. Greenle’s recommendations and work with the foundation follows previous research from the JLab institute announced in April. This project is influenced by proposals set forth by my colleagues and me at Technically Philly.

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William Penn Foundation details plan for Philadelphia online journalism network

Updated 4/25/10 @ 5:41 p.m. with William Penn Foundation clarification

Fewer than four months after its Philadelphia media elite round table to discuss the subject, the William Penn Foundation has released a more detailed outline of its intentions of investing and developing local online journalism in the region.

The report, which was released Wednesday, comes from the J-Lab journalism institute at American University and its Executive Director, Pulitzer Prize winner and former Philadelphia Inquirer business editor Jan Schaffer.

“While we’re not ready to brand the project at this point, it is fair to characterize what we have in mind as an independent journalism collaborative,” said the foundation’s President Feather Houstoun in an e-mail to stakeholders in the initiative.

The final report, which can be read in its entirety here, tacitly outlines the steps to develop roughly two things: (1) a central website of public affairs coverage and (2)  a journalism collaboration by way of staff, funding and shared administrative and business services — which I like to think was at least partially influenced by our pushing on with News Inkubator.

Updated: The William Penn Foundation will not “necessarily” implement what was found in the report, communications director Brent Thompson told me.

More broadly, as Schaffer wrote in an e-mail to those she interviewed in her months-long research: “After a deep analysis of the media landscape, J-Lab has recommended that Philadelphia is ripe for a unique Networked Journalism collaborative, partnering new media makers with original reporting on public affairs.”

It’s a quick and more detailed move less than half a year a large stakeholders meeting that was less than decisive.

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