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Fifth anniversary of APME initiative to honor two smaller newspapers

Saturday, August 20, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Laura Sellers-Earl
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The fifth anniversary of the Associated Press Media Editors’ Community Journalism Public Service Initiative will celebrate the work of two smaller newspapers, one of which has won the grant initiative for the second straight year.

The Journal-Standard of Freeport, Ill, was named a winner in last year’s competition and won again this year for its “Freeport Fish Tank” project on its crumbling downtown. The other winner is The Daily Item of Sunbury, PA, which won for its project on heroin and prescription drug abuse crisis in its community.

“While several news organizations have tackled projects on similar issues, we felt both The Journal-Standard and The Daily Item showed fresh approaches to the projects,” said Joe Hight, chairman of APME judging panel. “We also were impressed by their records of project development and depth. We felt they were both examples to all news organization of how important these types of projects are to their communities.”

Because of generous grants from the Park and APME foundations, the initiative will award grants of $2,500 to each newspaper, plus expenses for representatives to attend the upcoming ASNE-APME conference in Philadelphia. The Park Foundation of Ithaca, NY, also funded last year’s $2,500 grants that will help the news organizations to finish their projects.

The grants are awarded to media companies that have a website and serve a metropolitan area (MSA) of 100,000 or fewer people. The project can use print and/or digital platforms and include social media and/or a mobile strategy. It should be considered entrepreneurial and should have the potential to be used elsewhere, including by a larger media company. 

Last year, The Journal-Standard was selected for its series analyzing the dramatic effect of a series of shootings on the 24,000 people who live in Freeport. The Journal-Standard won this year for creating a unique engagement opportunity, modeled after the TV show “Shark Tank.”

Local Editor Jillian Duchnowski will represent The Journal-Standard again at this year’s conference.

“The Journal-Standard is ambitiously looking at community engagement in a new way,” wrote judge Summer Moore, digital and audience engagement editor for The Times of Northwest Indiana. “By inserting themselves in a community project such as this, they are letting Freeport know they will be more than observers in the redevelopment of their downtown.”

In an effort to help Freeport’s downtown blight left by big box stores, the newspaper has teamed up with local community leaders to start the “Freeport Fish Tank.” They have partnered with local economic development leaders and bankers to develop a program to support entrepreneurs through mentors and prize packages.

The money from the grant will help cover costs for the event, support social media advertising to bring in new audiences and support freelance work to cover the daily stories while reporters are working on this project.

The Daily Item, winner of the second grant, will be represented by Editor Dennis M. Lyons at the conference. He wrote  the grant will be used to train the newspaper’s seven reporters in data mining and multimedia presentations for a major project on the local heroin/prescription drug abuse epidemic. It will also fund travel to places already implementing successful programs in line with The Item’s strong emphasis on public service.

The grant application also linked to several ambitious projects The Daily Item has completed in the past nine months focusing on serious community issues, including homelessness, government spending and the area's lack of public transportation. The newspaper also spent thousands of dollars in an open records fight for documents from a police department's internal investigation.

“This small newsroom is impressively ‘punching above its weight,’ ” wrote judge Cate Barron, vice president of content for PA Media Group.  “The citizens of Sunbury are fortunate to have such a fierce watchdog.”

Besides The Journal-Standard, other previous grant winners have been the Star-Tribune of Terre Haute, Ind., for its project, “A City on the Brink: Terre Haute’s Financial Crisis;” The Enid, Okla., News & Eagle for "Under Pressure" about the city’s lack of services for poor parts of its city; The Sedalia (Mo.) Democrat for "Meth at the Crossroads"; and The Daily Citizen of Beaver Dam, Wis., for "Mental Health on Hold."

Associated Press Media Editors

APME is a professional network, a resource for helping editors and broadcasters improve their news coverage and newsroom operations.

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