WILMINGTON – A new nonprofit newsroom aims to launch this fall after securing a seed grant from the Longwood Foundation.Spotlight Delaware, which will be organized by the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI), a 2-year-old nonprofit launched by former journalist Allison Levine, aims to fill gaps in the state’s media ecosystem left by decades of downsizing by its legacy publications.The idea was born in part from a survey of 250 Delawareans regarding their views on local media and a study of current resources that found gaps in coverage. Spotlight Delaware was also a finalist for the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation’s Reinventing Delaware award, from which the nonprofit benefited from consulting services despite not being chosen for the final cash prize.
[caption id="attachment_219859" align="alignright" width="300"] Allison Levine | PHOTO COURTESY OF DCF[/caption]
To date, LJI has funded an internship program that provides reporters from historically underrepresented communities to those news outlets to help broaden their coverage. It also funded a survey of residents on the state of local news media and helped launch the Delaware Journalism Collaborative, a coalition of the state’s news outlets focused on a single topic.On Thursday, LJI announced that it has received an $800,000 grant from the Longwood Foundation, a charitable foundation established by the du Pont family in 1937, to support the launch of Spotlight Delaware.Levine told Delaware Business Times that they aim to launch the collaborative newsroom this fall with a few reporters. They plan to build to about nine reporters and/or editors covering core issues of government, education and land use within the next few years.Rather than competing with existing publications, LJI aims to create a newsroom that will work in tandem with reporters and editors around the state, Levine said. By completing in-depth reporting on local issues that outlets want, Spotlight Delaware will aim to free up resources at newspapers, radio and TV stations, and online websites to cover other stories.“The existing newsrooms are doing a lot of really important work, but they can't do all of it. So, we want to try to help figure out how we can reduce some of the duplication or minimize some of the duplication of effort and then share content across different platforms,” she explained.Spotlight Delaware stories will be carried by any partnering outlet free of charge, similar to the national outlet ProPublica, and the exposure from legacy outlets will help drive future fundraising for the nonprofit newsroom, Levine said. A membership program for individuals will also eventually help to supplement the revenue.Similar collaborative programs have been launched around the country to success, and Levine hopes Spotlight Delaware can energize a media ecosystem that has been struck by the Catch-22 of less local coverage due to staffing cuts, which feeds into falling print circulations.Several studies have determined that areas with less local news coverage have correlations to smaller voter turnout, higher taxes and less responsive government, Levine noted.“We also see exacerbation of inequities among racial communities and rural communities, and an increase in misinformation and agenda-driven information. So, we are hoping to help address some of those gaps,” she added.
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