Center for Community Media to Support News Outlets Nationally

  • By Newmark J-School Staff
Skyler Reid

The Center for Community Media (CCM) at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY has expanded into a national organization supporting news outlets across the country that provide essential coverage of people and issues underrepresented in the mainstream media.

The evolution of CCM, previously known as the Center for Community and Ethnic Media, is supported by $900,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, $400,000 from the Democracy Fund, and $150,000 from the Ford Foundation.

The school started the Center in 2012 to offer trainings, research, journalist showcases, networking opportunities, and press briefings to independent media outlets serving immigrants and communities of color in New York. “The demand for this kind of support is even greater now, so we are expanding our work across the country,” said CCM Executive Director Graciela Mochkofsky.

CCM aims to increase the visibility and sustainability of the community media outlets, many of which speak to their audiences in languages other than English. They suffer from the same business pressures afflicting all news organizations today, said Mochkofsky, but they also face unique challenges, including a lack of adequate resources for longer periods of time, little access to professional training, a lag in the adoption of current technologies and audience engagement techniques, and limited distribution capacity.

The Center will connect community news outlets to research, tools, funding, and training, in part through collaborative relationships with regional partners in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, El Paso, Denver and other locations. It will also increase the visibility of the sector through research, media mapping projects, and public events.

CCM will also be the home of the school’s existing Latino Media Initiative and a soon-to-be-created Black Media Initiative. Each will host a series of programs designed to provide resources specifically to the Latinx and Black-owned press.

The Center has a number of initiatives planned for 2020, including Spanish-language trainings in how to combat disinformation for Latinx news organizations in New York and Los Angeles. The Center also plans to establish a reporting fellowship across the U.S.-Mexico border to increase resources for the local press during the presidential election year, and it will launch a program to help independent outlets in Chicago get access to advertising dollars.

“By driving digital transformation, building a strong support network, and leveraging training and resources, the Center has the potential to effect change on a national scale, ensuring these outlets are able to continue their essential work,” said LaSharah S. Bunting, Knight Foundation director for journalism. Knight’s $900,000 investment in CCM is part of the $300 million initiative it announced last year to rebuild the future of local news and information.

“Throughout history, media outlets led by and designed for immigrants and communities of color have set an example for how newsrooms can represent, engage with, and truly serve their communities — a model that mainstream newsrooms are now starting to adopt,” said Lea Trusty, program associate for engaged journalism with the Public Square Program at Democracy Fund. “This model leads to increased participation in our democracy, which translates to more power for traditionally marginalized communities.”

“The Center for Community Media fills a key role in both studying and aiding a diversifying media landscape, at a time when civic and census coverage needs are pressing. This work helps anchor a diverse array of journalism producers who couldn’t be more needed in our times,” said Farai Chideya, journalism program officer at the Ford Foundation.

In addition to heading the Newmark J-School’s bilingual Spanish-language master’s degree program, Mochkofsky has produced original research on the state of Latinx news media and created and led a Latino Media Summit that each year draws more than 200 journalists, media executives, and entrepreneurs.

Contact Mochkofsky for more information about CCM at graciela.mochkofsky@journalism.cuny.edu.