News Integrity Initiative Awards $1.8 Million to Build Support for Quality Journalism

  • By Amy Dunkin

The News Integrity Initiative at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism announced $1.8 million in grants that aim to improve people’s lives by fostering trust between newsrooms and the public and nurturing constructive, inclusive community conversations.

Launched in the spring of this year, the Initiative is a $14 million fund to investigate the roots of mistrust in news and invest in solutions for building public support for quality journalism through grants, applied research, events and training.

“This first group of grants embodies NII’s values and vision by offering inspiring ideas, practical tools and research for newsrooms and organizations to build trust, understanding and solutions in our communities,” said Molly de Aguiar, Managing Director for the Initiative.

Following is the list of the ten grants awarded, in alphabetical order:

Arizona State University ($300,000)

To support the News Co/Lab, a newly-launched collaborative lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. This grant supports a hands-on pilot project working with local news organizations and communities to develop innovative ways to increase transparency, engagement, mutual understanding, and respect. Over time, the lab will work with a variety of partners, from educators, librarians and technologists, to community groups and newsrooms of different types and sizes.


Center for Investigative Reporting ($250,000)

The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal Labs model establishes reporting collaborations with local newsrooms and builds relationships with a variety of community partners and the public through innovative storytelling experiments. Over the next two years, this grant will help CIR: test new ideas for community engagement rooted in investigative reporting; develop new public-powered investigative projects; and document the Reveal Labs model.


Center for Media Engagement (formerly the Engaging News Project) ($75,000)

The Center for Media Engagement (formerly the Engaging News Project) at The University of Texas at Austin provides news organizations research-based techniques for engaging digital audiences in commercially viable and democratically beneficial ways. This grant will support the “Making Strangers Less Strange” research project, which aims to shed light on divides among social groups.


EducationNC ($155,000)

EducationNC provides citizens and policymakers with nonpartisan data, research, news, information, and analysis about the major trends, issues, and challenges bearing on education in North Carolina. This grant supports the expansion of their “Reach NC Voices” project to enable community journalists to deliver personalized, local, and actionable data via a suite of messaging and mapping tools that will engage people in two-way conversations, and deepen relationships between newsrooms and the public.


Free Press ($250,000)

Free Press’ News Voices Project in New Jersey and North Carolina builds bridges between journalists and everyday people to improve local news, increase access to credible information, and foster public support for quality journalism. Over the next eighteen months, this grant will help Free Press explore with its NJ and NC partners how a community loses trust in the media, how misinformation reshapes local narratives and identities, and what kind of new approaches and interventions might rebuild trust and disrupt local media’s downward spiral.


Listening Post Collective ($200,000)

The Listening Post Collective is a community news initiative offering mentorship, tools, peer-to-peer support, and a shared online learning space for journalists, newsroom leaders, and community groups who are looking to revitalize their local news and information ecosystems and connect more directly with the public. With this grant for operating support over the next two years, the Collective will continue to mentor and build capacity for the existing Listening Post partners and will seek new partnerships that address information gaps in traditionally marginalized communitiesThe Listening Post Collective is an initiative of Internews.


Maynard Institute ($100,000)

The Maynard Institute is the nation’s oldest organization dedicated to helping the news media accurately portray all segments of society, particularly those often overlooked, such as communities of color. This grant supports the newly-launched Maynard 200 initiative, which will train, mentor and support 200 journalism leaders, entrepreneurs and community storytellers over the next five years. The Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund matched the NII grant to Maynard.


OpenNews ($200,000)

OpenNews connects a network of developers, designers, journalists and editors to collaborate on open technologies and processes within journalism. Over the next two years, this grant supports a number of new offerings for emerging diverse leaders within the journalism code community, beginning with diversity scholarships for the upcoming SRCCON:WORK conference.


Public Radio International ($60,000)

PRI is a global non-profit media company focused on the intersection of journalism and engagement to effect positive change in people’s lives. This grant supports “The Bridge,” a project to build PRI’s audience across divisions, so PRI can distribute its work broadly, preempt misinformation, and create a foundation for civic engagement.


The Coral Project ($200,000)

The Coral Project is an open source project to help publishers of all sizes build better communities around their journalism by bolstering healthy communication between journalists and their communities such that everyone feels safe, respected, and heard. Over the next two years, this grant will support continued newsroom adoption of The Coral Project’s community engagement tools (“Ask” and “Talk”), and provide ongoing support and guidance in community engagement best practices for the journalism field.


“It’s never been easier to widely distribute trustworthy news and information, yet it’s never been easier to spread and amplify disinformation too,” said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and a member of NII’s executive committee. “We have to seek new approaches to build trust in our communities, and serve the public’s news and information needs. That’s what NII and these organizations stand for.”

In addition to the grants announced today, NII made two grants shortly after its launch to First Draft News ($100,000) and WikiTribune ($50,000), and continues to review invited proposals on a rolling basis. Although most of the supported organizations to date are US-based, NII is a global initiative and will be teaming up with international partners for events, trainings, and community discussions, with some grants to be announced in the coming weeks and months.

About the News Integrity Initiative

The News Integrity Initiative is a project of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism Foundation under the auspices of the School’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. The fund is seeded with $14 million in grants from a coalition of partners, which currently include Facebook, Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, Ford Foundation, AppNexus, Knight Foundation, Tow Foundation, Betaworks, Mozilla, and Democracy Fund. For more information, please visit:


Molly de Aguiar, Managing Director, News Integrity Initiative

Email:; Phone: 646-758-7790

Free Press/News Voices Feature Photo by Tim Karr