November 1, 2010

Two ventures focused on civic affairs — I-News and Localocracy — have been selected as winners of the Poynter Promise Prize, an incubation project in entrepreneurial journalism run by The Poynter Institute and funded by the Ford Foundation.

I-News, the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, is a Denver-based nonprofit that produces in-depth investigative reporting that is published on its own site and is distributed to participating news organizations.

Localocracy is a Massachusetts tech start-up that provides an online town common where registered voters using real names can weigh in on local issues. The company licenses tools for audience engagement to news organizations, governments, and local groups.

The winners were selected from a field of 15 finalists in a contest kicked off on Poynter Online Oct. 1. Four judges picked the winners: Bill Mitchell and Wendy Wallace of Poynter’s entrepreneurial journalism faculty, and Mark Briggs and Jeremy Caplan, Poynter’s Ford Fellows in Entrepreneurial Journalism Teaching.

Briggs announced the winners during a session that he chaired Saturday about entrepreneurial journalism at the Online News Association conference.

The contest invited applicants whose ventures “advance the journalistic ideals of The Poynter Institute (standing for journalism, strengthening democracy).” The winners will receive up to $10,000 each in contracted accounting, legal, research or promotion work, plus coaching and mentoring by Poynter faculty and the Ford Fellows.

“I’m thrilled that I-News was chosen for this first-ever Poynter Promise Prize,” said Laura Frank, executive director of I-News Network. “With Poynter’s help, I think we can set I-News on a path that will show there really is a sustainable business model for investigative journalism.”

Said Conor White-Sullivan, CEO and co-founder of Localocracy: “Media is the bridge between citizens and government, and as we re-imagine that bridge, our partnership with Poynter will help ensure that the tools we are building help local journalists meet deadlines and community needs every day.”

By working with these ventures, Poynter can share lessons learned with other journalists and entrepreneurs.

One of Localocracy’s objectives, for example, is to see how user-generated content and comments about local issues can best be leveraged into a resource for helping journalists cover their communities. Among the topics Poynter will explore with the I-News Network is the challenge of sustaining investigative reporting after initial stages, when projects are often supported by foundation grants.

Competition for the prize began with three-minute video pitches submitted by about 40 applicants. That field was narrowed to the 15 finalists, who responded to questions about where their ventures are headed and how Poynter might help.

The incubation project is financed by a grant from the Ford Foundation.

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Bill Mitchell is CEO and publisher of the National Catholic Reporter. He was editor of Poynter Online from 1999 to 2009. Before joining Poynter, he…
Bill Mitchell

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