Alvernia University, Berks Community Television (BCTV), and the Berks County Community Foundation (BCCF) are teaming up to help identify “information gaps” and to assist area residents in gaining access to important community news. Project “Free Flow” is being funded by a $52,000 grant by the Knight Foundation, and a matching amount courtesy of the BCCF.
To identify information gaps in five neighborhoods, project organizers will use Knight Foundation’s Information Toolkit to determine what kind of information residents need but aren’t getting through media outlets. A previous Knight Community Information Challenge project, bctv.org is an important source for professionally reported stories and a voice for local residents. However, it is unclear how much of that news is being received in Berks County’s communities.
For Project Free Flow, students from Alvernia University will be trained to produce reports on issues that need further exploring. Jodi Radosh, associate professor of communication at Alvernia University plans to engage her students as citizen journalists — an opportunity for them to sharpen important investigative and writing skills while helping members of local communities to be better informed of issues that affect them.
"In a changing news environment, it is critical that citizens of Berks County have access to information as well as have the capability to share their stories," said Radosh.
In 2009, the Knight Commission found that “while the broadband age is enabling an information and communications renaissance, local communities in particular are being unevenly served with critical information about local issues.” [See full report]
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation hopes their Community Information Challenge will help fill the information gap by developing community and place foundations as leaders in supporting local news and information, seen as vital to helping communities shape their own futures.
In addition to Project Free Flow, the Knight Foundation awarded 19 other Community Information Challenge grants across the country, totaling $3.67 million.
“These foundations join the 80-plus community and place-based foundations who are leading by informing and engaging the public on issues they care about,” said Trabian Shorters, vice president of communities for Knight Foundation.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation:
The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit http://www.knightfoundation.org.
More information about Project Free Flow: Filling Information Gaps in Underserved Pennsylvania Neighborhoods
Visit the Berks County Community Foundation online.