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Jan. 28, 2020, 10:27 a.m.
Business Models

CUNY’s Center for Community Media is expanding its reach beyond New York City

“Trust is the No. 1 value that these news organizations have.”

Community news outlets around the country scored a win today: CUNY’s Center for Community Media announced it is expanding from its New York City base to serve news organizations in communities of color and immigrant communities across the country.

The center, based at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY (full disclosure: my alma mater), is doing so with $1.45 million: $900,000 from the Knight Foundation, $400,000 from the Democracy Fund, and $150,000 from the Ford Foundation. It’ll use that money to scale up its services, like providing outlets resources, tools, and opportunities for networking to help their publications survive and thrive during a rough time for all local news.

CCM, founded in 2012, used to be named the Center for Community and Ethnic Media. It also used to publish Voices of New York, a site that highlighted the best of the city’s community and ethnic media (it’s now operated by City Limits) and put on the now-defunct Ippies to honor reporting in ethnic communities.

“We decided to take all the lessons learned in New York and bring them to a national scale, and offer resources and skills and trainings to these outlets that are struggling with the same issues as everyone else,” said Graciela Mochkofsky, CCM’s executive director and a 2009 Nieman Fellow. “But they have less resources, they’ve been marginalized by mainstream media, and don’t necessarily have access to the same conversations that mainstream media editors and publishers have.”

The center is partnering with journalists and organizations in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and El Paso, she said. People based in those cities will share CCM’s resources with news outlets in their communities through research, media mapping projects, and public events.

Plans for 2020 are well underway:

The Center already has a number of initiatives planned for 2020, including trainings in both New York and Los Angeles in Spanish for Latinx news media organizations on how to combat disinformation. The Center also plans to establish a reporting fellowship across the U.S.-Mexico border to increase resources for the local press during the presidential election year, and will launch a program to help independent outlets in Chicago get access to advertising dollars.

The main goal is to “increase the visibility and sustainability of media outlets that primarily serve immigrants and communities of color, often in languages other than English.”

The Knight Foundation’s contribution is part of its larger $300 million commitment to rebuild the future of local news over the next five years. “Trust is the No. 1 value that these news organizations have,” said Knight director for journalism LaSharah Bunting. “When we look at the industry and we’re all trying to figure out ways to navigate issues of misinformation and disinformation and figuring out what are the ways that we can really bring these audiences in, and get them to trust us more. Here are outlets that already innately have that.”

CUNY is already home to a number of projects around Spanish-language media, including its bilingual journalism master’s program, the annual Latino Media Report, and the Latino Media Summit. A new initiative around African-American media is in the works for this year.

“It’s sad when I read about the demise of local journalism or the new news deserts, to not find in the list of what has been lost or threatened, the thousands and thousands of outlets that still exist serving these communities,” Mochkofsky said. “We’re trying to fill that void and work with these outlets to offer resources to continue doing that work and figure out with them how to reach out to the new audiences that still need them.”

POSTED     Jan. 28, 2020, 10:27 a.m.
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