Monday, May 16, 2011

Director's Notes: Update on 2011 Letters of Inquiry

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Journalism Program has finished its initial discussion on the submitted letters of inquiry.
We received more than 150 LOIs by the May 2 deadline.

After the first round of reviews, we have about 60 proposals still in the mix for 2012 grant consideration.

The next step is to determine how each of these potentially fits into our 2011-2013 portfolios. All applicants will be notified about the status of their proposals by May 31.

We are now assessing internally, based on out logic model, to what degree each cluster of proposals helps further our strategic goals. This year, for the first time, we’ll be asking groups to share with the Foundation a logic model for their projected work as part of their full proposal.

Questions going forward for us to address include:
  • What changes are we seeking in journalism content, audience and rights?
  • How are we influencing that change?
  • Are there coalitions, collaborations and partnerships that will us achieve our goals?
  • How can we best leverage our resources?
  • How can we build successful models and reach scalability of our initiatives?
  • What is the balance of quality content, engaged audiences and strong press freedoms that generates maximum impact on news literacy and civic engagement?
We will keep you periodically posted on our progress.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Grantee Spotlight: BGA Shines a Light on Government

Friday, May 06, 2011

Congratulations to the winners of the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Investigative Reporting. The following reporters were honored today at the Better Government Association's Shining a Light on Government awards luncheon.
  • "Reality Check: Where are the jobs?" WTHR-TV Indianapolis, Bob Segall, Cyndee Hebert, Bill Ditton
  • "Tax Buyers, Politicians Benefit from Tax Sales" Belleville News-Democrat, Brian Brueggemann, Mike Fitzgerald
  • "The Shadow Budget" Chicago Reader, Mick Dumke, Ben Joravsky
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Meritorious Award for Commitment to Investigative Journalism

The Better Government Association is one of our Chicago area grantees shining a light on government and holding public officials accountable. BGA executive director Andy Shaw recently received a letter from an elderly South Side couple who were getting pummeled by the city bureaucracy. He turned it over to new BGA staffer James Edwards, who wrote about cleaning up the mess.

Beyond the frequent aggravation of red tape and lack of accountability, there are times when government does it right. New York Times columnist David Brooks notes that commentators and public analysts “spend little time directly observing what government is and isn’t good at.” His April 29 column salutes a federal program called HUDStat, which tracks homelessness among veterans and the results of the various efforts to combat it.

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Spotlight On Digital Learning

Friday, May 06, 2011

Last month, we attended the MacArthur Foundation’s event on Reimagining Learning, which featured innovative pilot projects and advancements in digital learning. About 250 educators, members of the nonprofit community and community leaders, including incoming mayor Rahm Emanuel attended the event. We were especially intrigued by the applications of digital media in the classroom. Here are some of the highlights from the event: 

One of the main ideas posed was educators need to teach and prepare students for jobs that don’t even exist yet, using tools that aren’t even invented yet. Digital Youth Network’s success in partnering with Chicago Public Library’s You Media was highlighted as a promising model. This collaboration allows students access to You Media where they can use technology and media to develop skills and share and critique each other’s work in a unique space online community.

Video game design as an effective teaching tool was also highlighted. Quest to Learn, a school for “digital kids,” is a model of this kind of learning. Quest to Learn uses games as rules-based systems, where students have to use critical thinking skills, create new worlds, make complex decisions and receive feedback. A Quest to Learn charter school will open in Chicago this fall.Read more about Chicago’s Quest to Learn school here.

To learn more about digital learning, click here to watch a PBS documentary on new leaders of 21st century learning.

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Spotlight on New Media Tools For Nonprofits and Community News Groups

Friday, May 06, 2011

We're seeing a lot of exciting developments on the community news front this week. 
J-Lab posts an interesting story on a model of stewardship that bumped traffic to a nonprofit statewide news site while demonstrating a viable sustainability model. J-Lab editorial director Andrew Pergam’s profile of a “merger of equals” between VTDigger and the Vermont Journalism Trust has created a promising funding model for supporting support statewide and regional news coverage. 

Also, San Francisco State University’s Renaissance Journalism Center has created a New Media Toolkit to help journalists sort through the multitude of available story-telling technologies. “The site was designed specifically for those working at small to medium-sized nonprofits and community and ethnic news organizations, as a way to help jump-start efforts in social media, video, audio, blogging and monitoring and metrics,” it says.

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Who we are: Innovative Evaluators and Map Makers

Friday, May 06, 2011

At a recent Donor’s Forum workshop called Beyond the Narrative: Visually Mapping the and Measuring the Impact of Grants , program officer Janet Liao showcased several mapping tools that foundations can use to highlight your organization’s work , partnerships, scope and more.

Here are some interesting tools that any organization can try:

  • Many Eyes : This is a data visualization tool from IBM. The site allows users to upload data and then produce graphic representations for other to view and comment on.
  • Prezi: Prezi (a zooming presentation editor) lets you bring your ideas into one space and see how they relate, helping you and your audience connect. Zoom out to see the big picture, zoom in to see the details.
  • GIS (graphic information systems) mapping: A geographical information system (GIS) allows the user to understand, question and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns and trends in the form of maps, reports and charts.
If your organization is deciding whether to develop an online mapping project, a good place to start might be a tour of other nonprofit mapping projects.

  • Maps that aggregate and display statistics: Create charts and graphs to track key indicators and statistics around important issue areas, such as civic involvement and education. For example, MetroPulse's resource site.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Out and About at Medill with Newton Minow and Rick Tulsky

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

We were honored to attend the April 29 celebration of the 50th anniversary of Newton Minow’s monumental “Vast Wasteland” speech. The event was hosted by John Lavine, dean of the Medill School of Journalism. Minow, who delivered the 1961 stem-winder as a young director of the Federal Communications Commission, implored industry leaders to provide high quality content. “Broadcasting cannot continue to live by the numbers,” he said. “Ratings ought to be the slave of the broadcaster, not his master.” A text of the speech can be found here. Minow, now a highly respected Chicago attorney, has updated his philosophy on broadcasting and technology in the April edition of Atlantic magazine. The April Atlantic issue also includes a commentary by James Fallows on the impact of Minow.

At Medill, we also met with one of our new grantees, Rick Tulsky. The former investigations editor of the San Jose Mercury News has been hired as director of Medill’s new watchdog/accountability initiative. We expect big things from Tulsky and his team of student journalism sleuths as they identify “systemic flaws in government and public institutions and empowering citizens with the kind of knowledge that leads to change.”

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Director's Notes: May Day! May Day!

Monday, May 02, 2011

The deadline for 2012 grant proposals is going, going, gone (EOB on May 2).
Each year, we typically receive more than 200 proposals requesting about $17 million in funding for various journalism projects.

In 2012, our budget is expected to be less than $6 million. However, prior commitments for 2012 already have eaten $2.2 million of that amount.
Evaluating new proposals is perhaps the most challenging aspect of my job.
I am reminded of a recent Chicago Sun-Times obituary on the passing of one its former staff members. Ruth Dunbar Davee, 99, had a distinguished career as a Sun-Times education writer after earning a doctoral degree in English literature from Northwestern University. When her husband Ken passed away in 1998, she became executive director of the Davee Foundation. 
As a philanthropist, Davee found that giving money away is easy. The hard part, she discovered, was the difficulty of grantmaking and proper stewardship.
And that’s the challenge we face at the McCormick Foundation Journalism Program. 

Next week, we will begin reviewing the latest proposals. Applicants will hear from us by the end of June.

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