On-line regional news initiative

On-line regional news initiative to go ‘live’
by summer 2011
 
Project moves to next phase with full funding now in place
 
PITTSBURGH, Pa., Feb. 17, 2011 – An on-line initiative to preserve and strengthen the delivery of local news and information will be launched by the summer this year, offering in-depth reports on key issues impacting the Pittsburgh region and cultivating broad community involvement.
 
The initiative forms part of The Pittsburgh Foundation’s mission to encourage civic engagement and promote ‘vibrant democracy,’ and was started by the Foundation with the support of a $253,000 grant from the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The project has received additional funding of $325,000 from The Pittsburgh Foundation
 
With its start-up funding requirements now in place, the on-line news initiative will transfer to the management of Pittsburgh Filmmakers group, one of the country’s largest and oldest independent media arts centers. “We are part of a bold and innovative movement across the United States to safeguard investigative community-oriented news,” said Grant Oliphant, The Pittsburgh Foundation’s President and CEO.
 
“Independence and impartiality are critical requirements for the successful and credible operation of our on-line news service and Pittsburgh Filmmakers is an ideal partner, providing a resourceful base from which this initiative will continue to develop and grow.”
 
 The initiative will be located at Filmmakers’ offices at Melwood Avenue, Oakland and will be overseen by an Advisory Board, comprising representatives of regional community constituents, including the Foundation. A process will begin shortly to appoint two full-time staff members, an editor and a web content manager.
 
“Like Filmmakers, this news initiative will be entirely independent, and not beholden to any particular interests, political or otherwise,” said Charlie Humphrey, Executive Director of Filmmakers. “While there will be input from the Advisory Board, the editor will have the final decision about content on the site and the issues that are addressed journalistically.”
 
Filmmakers will provide infrastructure and administrative support, and the venture will be modeled on similar on-line news initiatives that have been developed across the U.S. in recent years, including ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom based in New York that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. 
 
The Pittsburgh on-line news initiative will seek to work closely with regional partners in the mainstream broadcasting and print media, and initially will use a core of independent freelance journalists for news and feature story assignments. 
 
“The media landscape, particularly the newspaper industry, has changed dramatically in the U.S., especially over the past decade,” said Grant Oliphant. “Pittsburgh is fortunate to still have a strong newspaper presence, but even here the resources to undertake deep investigative journalism are increasingly scarce.
 
“Our new on-line initiative is intended as a much-needed resource that I believe can serve as a trusted and reliable source of information for our community to ensure that our citizens continue to be well-informed about important issues.”
 
Charlie Humphrey added: “We cannot continue to view news and information production in silos where everyone is rushing to scoop everyone else. We need to look beyond that competitive model and look for ways to strengthen all media outlets.”
 
The Pittsburgh Foundation developed the on-line news venture as part of its strategic grantmaking mission to support vibrant democracy, including civic engagement and the research and dissemination of information around critical community issues designed to shape and inform public policy. The news initiative will operate as a nonprofit and the Foundation will be discussing its on-going financial support with local funding partners.
 
The Foundation is also working with organizations locally and nationally to further develop the research of raw data covering various social, economic and cultural aspects of the regional Pittsburgh community and the utilization of this data to help organizations address challenges for transforming the region.
 
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For further information, please contact:
John Ellis
Tel: 412-394-2647