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News and Info Initiative

Strengthening Local News

We believe informed citizens create an engaged community. Evolving from Focus Forward, the Foundation strives to create a more informed city by strengthening Wichita’s local news ecosystem.

GOALS

  • Address opportunities for additional coverage in identified areas
  • Explore unique delivery methods
  • Place resources directly into hands of journalists

CURRENT INVESTMENTS

Research

  • Media Coverage of Community-Driven Issues, conducted by Wichita State University PPMC and ESC
  • Collaboration and Community Engagement Capacity Assessment, conducted by Hearken
  • Community Stakeholder Validation - Priority Coverage Areas in Wichita, conducted by Hearken
  • Partnership with the American Journalism Project to research how information delivery methods and potential experimental business models can fill gaps for additional local coverage in the Wichita area
  • Data-Driven Storytelling: Making Civic Data Accessible with Audio is a one-year production, training and research project (beginning in 2021) funded by the Knight Foundation. It is a partnership between Envision (Wichita, Kansas), Sonify (Brooklyn, New York), and WCF. This project explores methods to make Open Data accessible for users who are blind or visually impaired. The idea is to test new approaches for communicating data with sound; through audio production, listening sessions, hands-on workshops and applied research.

Professional Development & Convenings

Collaborative Journalism

  • Formation of the Wichita Journalism Collaborative
    • Partnership with Solutions Journalism Network, including a $100,000 grant to the collaborative through the Local Media Project, funded by the Knight Foundation
    • A $140,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to partner with WCF, Envision and Sonify to enable data-driven storytelling that targets users who are blind or visually impaired
  • Audience engagement strategy development with Hearken

Context: A Community News Lab

  • Located at Revolutsia
  • This space is a neutral gathering space for Wichita Journalism Collaborative partners, as well as a testing ground for collective technology usage

The Wichita Beacon

  • In partnership with American Journalism Project (AJP), WCF is financially supporting the launch of a nonprofit local news network serving Kansas and Missouri.
  • In January 2021, AJP and WCF granted Kansas City-based newsroom, The Beacon, to assist in the formation of a news network. The Wichita Beacon launched in June 2021 with three reporters and an executive editor, to be announced in the late summer. 
  • WCF’s investment of $100,000 will position the network to add key leadership positions to the organization for the planned collaboration. Each location will operate with its own executive editor and editorial team. 
  • In July 2021, WCF committed a record $1.1 million to launch The Wichita Beacon with a focus on public service journalism
  • AJP and WCF continue their partnership with a three-year grant commitment totaling $3.85 million, focused on the development of The Beacon

FAQs

Why is the Foundation getting involved in local news?

WCF works to fulfill our mission by partnering with individuals and organizations in the community to devote resources to causes that matter. We believe local news is one of those causes. After three years of work with Focus Forward and James Chung, we’re taking the next natural step to continue to inform and engage the community.

Isn't it weird for a Foundation to support news and information?

Nope. The news ecosystem is shrinking, changing and polarized. The role of philanthropy in working through these challenges is more prominent today than ever before. As a funder, WCF acknowledges and respects that we don’t shape news coverage, story selection or other editorial decisions within the newsrooms we are supporting.

How serious is WCF about this?

We're not kidding. The Foundation has committed at least three years of staff time and additional resources to strengthen the local news ecosystem.


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