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Helping Community News Startups
Oakland Local


The Forum, the five-year-old, all-volunteer news site in Deerfield, N.H., now counts more than 350 contributors, posts 50 articles a week, and its readers assert they are “better educated” than regular newspaper readers about state and local government.

The Twin Cities Daily Planet, also launched in 2005, just added a corps of 12 neighborhood correspondents to its 100 media partners and bloggers as it morphs its mission to become a “community information center” to help neighborhood residents share, connect and collaborate.

New Castle NOW in the town of New Castle, N.Y., had 60,000 unique visitors as of the first 10 months of its third year. The site housed 3,450 articles and sold $90,000 in advertising.

Oakland Local is demonstrating how well-friended founders can use Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools to hook 151,000 unique visitors in its first seven months of existence.

Meanwhile, Oakland Local is ushering in the next era of community news startups, demonstrating how well-friended founders with high media skills can use Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools to hook 151,000 unique visitors to a hyperlocal news site in its first seven months of existence.

These are some of the snapshots of community news startups that have emerged five years after the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation funded J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism to create New Voices, a pioneering program to award small grants to seed the launch of innovative community news ventures in the United States and explore models for sustainability.

Through 2010, New Voices grants have been awarded to 55 local news projects from a pool of 1,433 applicants. All were required either to have nonprofit status or a fiscal agent. This reports examines the outcomes of the 46 projects that were launched with New Voices funding from mid-2005 through mid-2010. Nine additional grantees, announced in May 2010,will be debuting their sites over the next 10 months.

Simply put, we examined what worked and what didn’t, what made for robust sites or led to disappointment. We offer tips to help other startups and recommendations for Knight and other foundations based on what J-Lab has learned in mentoring these startups.

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