The Winnipeg Foundation and a prestigious American journalism foundation have decided to invest more than $400,000 into citizen journalism through the Winnipeg Free Press News Café.
The Community News Commons — a new grassroots reporting hub, open to the public — is the first project of its kind in Canada and the first Canadian project to receive the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
"This is an exciting and unique community building opportunity," Winnipeg Foundation CEO Rick Frost said. "Everyday Winnipeggers will become empowered, inspired and trained as citizen journalists and the entire community will benefit from (more) access to grassroots news."
The three-year project, with matching grants from both foundations, will pay to train and mentor citizen journalists, as well as create multimedia platforms to share their news, photos and information. Several Winnipeg public library branches will take part as technology hubs to the café.
The project will also offer opportunities for Red River College journalism students.
"The News Café was designed from the start to be this community hub, a place where people could come to share ideas and issues," said Free Press editor Margo Goodhand.
"So when the Winnipeg Foundation came to us with this proposal for a citizen journalism project — to do exactly what we’d dreamed of doing downtown — it was really quite exciting.
"We were so pleased to get the nod from the Knight Foundation, too. They’ve never funded projects like these outside of the U.S. before."
The Free Press sees the project, which should begin classes in everything from designing blogs to video editing as early as January, as a trail-blazer. "We think it’s going to be a model for other news organizations and other communities across North America," Goodhand said.
Knight family members were once U.S. newspaper magnates, and the foundation’s support comes from its Knight Community Information Challenge, a five-year, $24-million matching-grant initiative.
The intention is to engage community and place-based foundations to help meet local information needs.
The initiative has sponsored 80 other projects since 2008.