For those of you who like to hear the story behind the story – I’m that way, too – here’s the story behind our new grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation:
I’ve known since June that I-News was selected for this major game-changing funding. But Knight Foundation said the grant couldn’t be announced publicly until mid-September.
It was a certain kind of torture to keep it secret for three months!
When Knight Foundation told us they were awarding I-News more than $300,000, I wanted to run out into the street and stop perfect strangers to tell them the news!
But I couldn’t tell any strangers. I couldn’t even tell many of my close friends or colleagues.
Now, finally, I can tell all. Here’s how it came together:
Among the earliest enthusiasts of I-News were the folks at the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County. Local foundations are seeing first-hand the results of the journalism crisis and what happens in communities when important stories go untold because there simply aren’t enough journalists left to tell them all.
Knight Foundation is working to encourage other foundations to support local information needs. Here’s their thinking:
• Information is a core community need, as important as clean air, jobs and good schools.
• As traditional media have struggled, residents aren’t getting the local information they need to take action on the issues that affect their lives.
• Foundations can and should help residents be informed about the issues that shape their communities.
Knight Foundation president and CEO Alberto Ibargüen, put it this way: “The flow of local news is as important as the flow of jobs, or the flow of traffic, or electricity. It is a resource essential to a properly functioning community – a resource we can no longer take for granted.”
The Community Foundation wanted to support I-News in an application for the Knight Community Information Challenge. KCIC is a five-year, $24 million initiative to encourage place-based foundations to help meet local information needs.
The Community Foundation knows a lot about meeting local information needs. For example, if voters approve the Boulder Valley School District mill levy override Nov. 2, the foundation’s community information campaign called ReadySetLearn will have helped leverage a $100,000 Knight Foundation grant from last year into $5 million a year for preschool and full-day Kindergarten for low-income students in Boulder Valley.
I was honored that the Community Foundation wanted to apply for the KCIC grant on behalf of I-News. But there was one catch. The KCIC grants are matching grants. And the Community Foundation had already allocated all its extra funds for the year to its early education project. They felt the need to boost in-depth journalism was too great to wait another year, but they didn’t have any money left to match a new Knight Foundation grant.
Here’s where the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation came to the rescue!
EEJF gave I-News its first major grant earlier this year – $100,000. So all three foundations – Knight, Boulder and EEJF – agreed that the EEJF money would meet the requirements of the Knight matching grant. And Knight Foundation decided that the I-News mission was worth tripling the match, so they awarded I-News $305,500. It was their largest of 19 KCIC grants awarded nationwide.
When I found out, it literally took my breath away.
And good thing, too, or I might have run right into the street to tell strangers about how many of those untold stories could now be told.