That's the conclusion of David Westphal, who writes at USC's Online Journalism Review that the Knight Foundation's effort to seed the creation of local news operations across the U.S. received some pretty strong interest in its first year.
In the first year of the Knight Foundation's $24 million, five-year program, 100 of the nation's community foundations sought some of the action, pledging their own philanthropy in applications for matching Knight grants. That amounts to nearly 15 percent of the nation's civic foundations – and many of them submitted more than one grant proposal.
Knight officials were taken aback by the turnout. "The biggest surprise for me was how many responded in the first year," said Trabian Shorters, Knight's vice president of communities.
Knight reviewed a total of 170 applications and funded 21 of them to the tune of $5 million. Shorters said the local foundations would put up an amount "north" of that total. (I'll post precise figures when Shorters gets back to me.) Knight's 2009 contributions range from $500,000 to the San Diego Foundation to $41,250 headed to the Manatee Community Foundation in Florida....
The wholesale pairing up of civic foundations with news and information non-profits marks a new frontier in the development of non-profit community news sites. And it busts through whatever barrier there might have been to hometown foundations identifying local news needs as a core mission.
Westphal is a senior fellow at USC Annenberg's Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, and is also affiliated with the Knight Digital Media Center.