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Democracy Fund Supports ASU’s News Co/Lab with Grant to Increase Newsroom Transparency, Engagement

December 7, 2017

Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication today announced new support from Democracy Fund for Cronkite’s pioneering News Co/Lab, a collaborative lab working to improve how all of us understand and engage with news and information.

Democracy Fund’s $100,000 grant to the News Co/Lab will strengthen its newsroom project, which helps journalists work with their communities to develop innovations that increase transparency, engagement, mutual understanding and respect. Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation that works to ensure the American people come first in our democracy.

“Democracy depends on an informed public, empowered by trustworthy information about their lives, their communities and their nation. In an age of viral misinformation and hoaxes, newsrooms have to do much more to help their readers navigate the news landscape,” said Josh Stearns, associate director of the Public Square Program at Democracy Fund. “The News Co/Lab at Arizona State University will help newsrooms experiment with ways to engage with diverse communities across the country and help build, and rebuild, trust in journalism that is vital for a healthy democracy.”

Democracy Fund joins three other current News Co/Lab funders, Facebook, the News Integrity Initiative, and the Rita Allen Foundation.

The News Co/Lab, launched in October, is based in the Cronkite School, a national leader in journalism education. The lab’s co-founders are Cronkite Professor of Practice and longtime media literacy author Dan Gillmor and Cronkite Innovation Chief and news literacy pioneer Eric Newton. The two will work together with other lab staff on a variety of projects. Cronkite News, the student-powered news division of Arizona PBS, will be a test bed for lab experiments.

The lab’s newsroom project is now underway at three McClatchy newsrooms: The Kansas City Star, The Modesto Bee in central valley California, and The Telegraph in Macon, Georgia.

The three McClatchy newsrooms will create and launch experiments to improve the public's ability to understand how news works, build public trust in reporting, increase transparency in how news is produced, improve community engagement with newsrooms and gather feedback. The Cronkite School will track the success of these steps and share best practices and models that work.

“We’re grateful to Democracy Fund for its support of our work to improve the news ecosystem, where media creators and users have new opportunities and responsibilities,” said Gillmor, director of the News Co/Lab.

The lab is a direct outgrowth of the “News Literacy Working Group” convened last March by Facebook and ASU. That gathering included experts from around the world who seek innovative approaches to fighting misinformation.

Over time, the lab plans to work with a variety of partners, from educators and technologists to community groups and a variety of newsrooms of different types and sizes. Early collaborators include the News Literacy Project, the Trust Project, the Newseum, Knight Science Journalism at MIT, the Poynter Institute, the Trusting News project, the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University and the MIT Center for Civic Media. The News Co/Lab will promote and accelerate the best work already being done by the partners as well as pursuing its own program of experimentation.

“Democracy Fund’s support will help foster engagement and transparency between journalists and the communities they serve,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “We’re excited to move forward on this important initiative.”

About Democracy Fund
Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation established by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to help ensure that our political system can withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Since 2011, Democracy Fund has invested more than $70 million in support of effective governance, modern elections, and a vibrant public square. For more, visit democracyfund.org.

About the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
The Cronkite School at Arizona State University is widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier professional journalism programs. The School’s 1,800 students regularly lead the country in national journalism competitions. They are guided by faculty comprised of award-winning professional journalists and world-class media scholars. Cronkite’s full-immersion professional programs give students opportunities to practice what they’ve learned in a real-world setting under the guidance of professionals.