Cronkite’s News Co/Lab gets an $80,000 “solutions journalism” grant

Cronkite School’s News Co/Lab receives grant to examine housing insecurity

Monday, Sept. 20, 2021


The Arizona Community Foundation has awarded Cronkite’s News Co/Lab an $80,000 “solutions journalism” grant to explore the impact of housing on health outcomes in diverse communities.

The one-year grant will support Cronkite faculty and students as they conduct listening sessions with Arizona residents who face housing insecurity and whose health has been impacted as a result. The project will be in partnership with Local Voices Network, an organization that supports similar efforts to engage with communities often unheard.

“The idea is that we are not coming in with any preconceived notions or a laundry list of questions. It’s really more about what they want to tell us,” said Kristy Roschke, managing director of the News Co/Lab.

Listening sessions will begin late in the fall semester and will continue through the spring semester, when Cronkite will offer a new Community Engagement Reporting class as part of the grant. Roschke said the News Co/Lab will be flexible in timing and mode to accommodate as many participants as possible. Each session will be uploaded onto Local Voices Network’s platform, which uses artificial intelligence to transcribe and identify frequent phrases or themes to help focus the conversation. 

Armed with the data gathered from the listening sessions, students will produce a series of multimedia and multilingual solutions journalism projects that address the most commonly identified community challenges and opportunities in formats that are accessible to the  participants and their communities. 

“One of our key goals with this project is that the folks we speak with in these community listening sessions and their communities see these stories in the end,” said Roschke. “Often reporting can be extractive in that you talk to people, they tell you their story and then it gets published in a way they never see.”

Roschke hopes to continue direct communication with communities and organizations about possible solutions for housing insecurity, even after stories are published.

“The Cronkite School thanks the Arizona Community Foundation (ACF) for its generous support of the News Co/Lab’s examination into the impact of housing insecurity on health outcomes, particularly in marginalized communities,” said Lindsay Walker, director of development at the Cronkite School. “ACF’s leadership in addressing the housing crisis in our state is admirable; we are grateful to join them in this effort through community-focused solutions journalism that is powered by philanthropy.”

ACF regularly funds projects that focus on issues faced by Arizonans. The organization most recently supported Cronkite’s “Life Is…” project and documentary on youth suicide that reached 1 million people across the state.

“The Arizona Community Foundation is keenly focused on housing security and our Affordable Housing loan fund has supported the development of more than 3,300 affordable housing units throughout Arizona. We are proud to award this important grant to support the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication as they explore the impact of housing on health outcomes in diverse communities,” said ACF Chief Program and Community Engagement Officer Lisa Urias. 

About NewsCo/Lab

The News Co/Lab advances digital media literacy through journalism, education and technology. Since launching in November 2017, it has partnered with news organizations and community stakeholders to help people better understand the news and information environment.

About Arizona Community Foundation

In the tradition of community foundations across the country, the Arizona Community Foundation and its statewide Affiliates harness the collective generosity of thousands of Arizonans. The Arizona Community Foundation and its Affiliates steward the gifts placed in their care with an eye toward permanence and growth, and from the investment earnings on the endowment, award millions of dollars in grants and scholarships every year.

About Local Voices Network

LVN partners organize purposeful, boundary-crossing conversations where participants come to know one another through creative, constructive thinking and dialogue. The experience of being heard, asking questions and engaging possibilities reignites their motivation to engage with thorny and complex problems.

By Kasey Brammell