The Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service (NNS), a nonprofit newsroom and project of the Diederich College of Communication, and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism have been awarded a $1.4 million grant from the American Journalism Project to support their efforts to reshape the local news ecosystem in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin.
Over three years, the grant will build revenue and grow operations teams at both nonprofit newsrooms to support the expansion of journalism that represents, informs and engages local communities. It will also strengthen the newsrooms’ already close partnership, which last year involved jointly launching News414 — a readers-first project that uses text messages, social media, events and other tools to engage underserved audiences.
“This transformational gift will allow our newsrooms the breathing room needed to focus on creating a strong business operation to sustain and support the great journalism we produce,” said Ron Smith, editor and project director for NNS. “We are grateful the American Journalism Project recognizes the value we bring to our communities but we, like all nonprofit newsrooms, still need the financial support of our readers to stay afloat in these turbulent times.”
The $1.4 million will dramatically expand each organization, beginning with business and audience development. The grant will fund salaries for an audience growth director, grants manager, operations administrator, a development assistant, a full-time News414 project director and an NNS staffer fully dedicated to bringing in new streams of revenue.
The newsrooms aim to build upon their success and lessons learned through News414, which serves residents in Black- and Latino-majority Milwaukee ZIP codes, where research and surveys show wide information gaps.
News414 invites residents to shape coverage by engaging them before stories are published. Text messages, social media and in-person engagement connect residents directly with reporters who answer questions about housing, food access, jobs, health and other information residents say they need. News414’s texting tool has delivered information to more than 2,400 people since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
The nonprofit Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service covers the people and the issues that affect Milwaukee’s communities of color. Through evidence-based reporting, NNS intentionally celebrates ordinary people who do extraordinary things but also serves as a fierce watchdog for neighborhoods that often go uncovered by other media. Housed in the Diederich College of Communication, NNS employs a mix of paid professionals, community members and interns from schools across Milwaukee to deliver a daily news multimedia report.
The American Journalism Project is a new venture philanthropy organization dedicated to local news. Its work is grounded in an understanding of the severity, urgency and scope of the crisis as communities across the U.S. lose their newspapers and call for a new approach to local news. By providing transformative investments and close support to nonprofit, nonpartisan news organizations, it is building a new public service media that is governed by, sustained by and looks like the public it serves.