Public broadcasters, nonprofit media receive grants to use Hearken and GroundSource

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More than a dozen public broadcasters and nonprofit newsrooms received grants announced Wednesday to support use of tools that help build trust with audiences.

The Community Listening Engagement Fund awarded $241,000 to 34 organizations to subsidize the costs of adopting Hearken and GroundSource, platforms that help newsrooms integrate journalism into their communities.

CLEF is a grant-making initiative from the News Integrity Initiative, the Democracy Fund, the Knight Foundation and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Collectively, the funders have contributed $650,000 toward the initiative.

The Hearken platform solicits questions from audiences to set a newsroom’s agenda. GroundSource uses mobile messaging to gather community stories and build two-way communication between journalists and audiences. Each service will charge $8,500 for the first year of use. The grants cover 25 to 75 percent of the costs. Some grantees are using both platforms.

In its first grant round, individual grants ranged from $2,125 to $14,450, according to the Lenfest Institute. Recipients were chosen based on need, newsroom size and plans for using the tools, among other criteria.

Applications for the second round of CLEF funding opens May 1. A third round will be held later this year.

“We are impressed by CLEF’s inaugural class of news outlets working to develop audience-driven storytelling,” said Paul Waters, senior associate at Democracy Fund, in a statement. “The diversity represented within these organizations is encouraging, and we plan to work with partners like the Center for Community and Ethnic Media and the Obsidian Collection to build on our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in future grantmaking rounds.”

Nonprofit participants and their projects include:

Better Government Association, Chicago Using GroundSource to hear from underserved communities and to understand local news deserts. It will also adopt Hearken to solicit story ideas from community members.

Center for Public Integrity, Washington, D.C. Using Hearken to receive feedback from newsletter readers and identify interviewees for data-driven investigations. It will also obtain feedback and story ideas from under-represented communities for a series on economic inequality.

Chalkbeat, New York Using GroundSource to assess information needs, identify potential sources and gather story ideas in low-income communities in Detroit; Chicago; Memphis, Tenn.; and Newark, N.J.

The Hechinger Report, New YorkInviting readers to suggest story ideas using Hearken and using GroundSource to connect with its podcast listeners.

Illinois Public Media, Urbana — Using GroundSource to cover stories, events and breaking news and to invite its audience to interact with its statewide talk show, The 21st.

Religion News Foundation/Religion News Service, Columbia, Mo. — Using Hearken to involve readers in its editorial process and allow readers to ask journalists questions.

Science Friday Initiative, New York — Adopting GroundSource to track flu symptoms and natural disasters, to conduct instant polls on air and to source local stories.

Searchlight New Mexico, Santa Fe, N.M.Using GroundSource to connect with a focus group of foster children and provide guidance on how reporters can best reach their community.

KPCC, Pasadena, Calif. — Creating a club of GroundSource participants who receive weekly prompts about reports in progress that seek community input. The club will also receive texts on breaking stories and send election reminders.

The Trace, New York Using Hearken to solicit questions from gun-owning readers so reporters can approach them as potential sources. GroundSource will also connect the newsroom with underrepresented communities affected by gun violence.

WUWM, Milwaukee — Using GroundSource to connect to Hearken engagement efforts, to gather and pose questions and to create a text newsletter.

Grants were also awarded to Kansas City PBS; KCBX, San Luis Obisbo, Calif.; KJZZ, Phoenix; Mother Jones; Marfa Public Radio, Marfa, Texas; El Tímpano, Oakland, Calif.; Voice Of San Diego; and WFIU/WTIU, Bloomington, Ind.

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