GR Citizen Journalism Launches with Knight Grant - See the video

Introducing Citizen Journalism in Grand Rapids from GRCommFound on Vimeo.

Grand Rapidians will have the opportunity to become citizen reporters with a soon-to-be established network of neighborhood news bureaus in the city, thanks to a $128,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Grand Rapids Community Foundation will use the funds to establish four neighborhood news bureaus in the city. Matching grants from the Community Foundation, the Slemons Foundation and other sources will round out the launch of program.

In partnership with the Community Media Center (CMC), the news bureaus will give citizen reporters the tools, structure and mediums by which to gather, write and report on local news and events. When the news bureaus are fully established, reporters will be able to produce news for the web, radio or TV via the CMC’s resources. News bureaus will be physically located in recognized neighborhood gathering locations and each site will be outfitted with video and still cameras, computers, audio recorders and templates / connectivity required to “file” stories to the web. Additional production equipment and facilities are available for citizen reporter use through the Community Media Center.

“We learned of the Knight Foundation grant opportunity and knew Grand Rapids Community Foundation had a perfect partner to launch this concept,” said Roberta F. King, vice president for PR & Marketing at the Community Foundation. “Without the Community Media Center, I am certain we could not have dreamed of a project of this scale. The CMC has been involved in ensuring that citizens have a voice for 25 years with the news bureaus we are expanding that reach at a time where citizen journalism is coming into its own in progressive communities,” said King.

There are more than 800 active citizen journalism outlets in the U.S. and the list is growing. “Knight Foundation has supported this movement in many communities and we are pleased that Grand Rapids met its criteria for a grant,” said King.

“This project is an exciting opportunity to bring more media and technology services into our urban neighborhoods” said Laurie Cirivello, executive director of the Community Media Center. “At a time when traditional local news sources are facing challenges, we believe this project will help increase the flow of local information. We are delighted to be working with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and others to make it happen.”

Grand Rapids Community Foundation was one of 21 community foundations nation-wide that was selected for a grant through the Knight Community Information Challenge. The Knight Challenge is a $24 million initiative to help community foundations find creative ways to use media and technology to keep communities informed.

Each bureau will be initially “staffed” with a news team comprised of citizens and college journalism/communication students. As the projects grow, each will be encouraged to develop its own leadership/advisory board. To ensure high quality and fairness in the program, regular training will be offered to participants. Technical training will be augmented with workshops on specialized topics in journalism which could include business reporting, ethics, children’s issues, environmental reporting and law. Workshops will utilize media center staff, along with current and retired experts in the field as trainers. CMC’s production staff and the project coordinator will provide technical and operational support with assistance from host site personnel.

The project is still in its formative stages and a task force of citizens, neighborhood leaders, journalists, educators and communicators will be exploring structure and operational issues and existing citizen journalism models to help set policy and procedures for the news bureaus.


The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of the U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects with the potential to create transformational change. For more, visit

Grand Rapids Community Foundation supports Kent County (Michigan) nonprofits and leads the community in making positive, sustainable change. Its success is connected to the generosity of donors and the expertise of grantee organizations.

The Community Media Center leverages technology tools, media services and community venues to benefit greater Grand Rapids. CMC operates 88.1 WYCE-FM, GRTV and Livewire cable access television, and the historic Wealthy Theatre. CMC also provides a variety of nonprofit IT and web design, media production and media education services. More at

Click here for a complete list of community foundations receiving Knight Community Information Challenge grants.