Election Coverage & Community Listening Fund Application

Do you have new ideas to improve your newsroom’s relationship with your communities through election coverage this year? The American Press Institute is accepting applications from local news organizations for small-project funding to support these efforts. Eligible local news outlets can apply for funds through August 17, 2022 in amounts from $1,500 to $5,000 per newsroom.

The grants are being awarded as part of API’s 2022 Election Coverage & Community Listening Fund, a program aimed at empowering news organizations to implement community listening approaches in their elections coverage between now and November 2022. We hope these efforts yield important lessons for 2023 and 2024 that can be shared through journalism networks and conversations facilitated by API. 

API is primarily interested in supporting projects that seek to shore up trust and engagement among communities of color, and we are designating at least 30 percent of grant funds for ethnic media organizations. We encourage applications from nonprofit and for-profit local news organizations of any medium. Applications may include but are not limited to ideas for funding that cover: 

  • Stipends for qualitative interviews or focus groups
  • Tools that enable greater listening to audiences or communities
  • In-person event costs (for example, venues, food, etc.)
  • Time for staff or contractors to develop relationships outside of reporting stories
  • Promotion of voter guides or articles informed by listening

After selected news organizations receive the grant, API will facilitate several peer-learning sessions during the three-month grant period. After the grants are over and the work of election reporting is completed, API will facilitate 2 to 3 post-election conversations to discuss how newsrooms can build on their projects, reimagine beats  and help lay groundwork for better coverage in 2023 and 2024.

As part of the program, API will also award up to 20 free one-year licenses for Source Matters, an API tool that tracks and improves the diversity of your news stories. API believes diversifying sourcing is an essential practice for news organizations committed to understanding their communities and to advancing diversity and inclusion.

Application Guidelines

DEADLINE

Applications are due by 5 pm ET on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. Funding decisions will be made by Wednesday, August 24, 2022, with applicants notified shortly thereafter. 

ELIGIBILITY

All U.S. local news organizations, either nonprofit or commercial, are eligible to apply. We welcome applications from news organizations of any size, including daily or weekly newspapers, public or commercial radio, TV, digital-only news sites, or other non-traditional news and information formats, and those serving urban, suburban or rural populations, including specific ethnic, racial or religious demographics. We will also consider applications from individuals leading or launching their own news organization or who are working with an established news organization. API will designate at least 30 percent of grant funds for ethnic media organizations.

EXPECTATIONS AND PARTICIPATION

In line with API’s mission, funding recipients must be comfortable sharing insights with other news organizations. News organizations receiving funding must submit two brief reports to the American Press Institute by Dec.16: 1) a short memo of lessons from their activities, and 2) a brief financial report. They will also be asked to participate in two learning calls among funding recipients during Fall 2022.  

In addition, news organizations receiving the free Source Matters licenses will be asked to participate in two learning calls during 2023 and to submit two brief reports on what they learned, one due at midpoint and one at the conclusion of the free license year. They also can expect to receive training and support for the use of the tool sometime in the fall of 2022, and organizations will have one full calendar year following the conclusion of onboarding to use the tool for free. At the conclusion of the year, news organizations will have the option to license Source Matters for the normal fee, currently $5,000 per year. News organizations that choose not to pay for a license will be able to export the sourcing information they have tracked. 

HOW MUCH FUNDING CAN WE REQUEST?

We’re looking to fund support requests in the range of $1,500 to $5,000. We may consider smaller or larger requests in special circumstances. Larger requests may be considered if they involve multiple news organizations. Funding must be reserved for activities from the time of award letter until November 30, 2022. Initially, API expects to select about 20 to 40 applicants to receive project funding. API will also award 20 free one-year licenses for the use of Source Matters, its source auditing tool. Some recipients may receive both a grant and a free Source Matters license.

HOW MAY FUNDS BE SPENT?

Funding is intended to support projects that prioritize reporting that helps news organizations provide information about elections through deep listening to community needs. In selecting the participants, API will prioritize news organizations with projects that show a commitment to listening strategies with communities of color. 

Funds can be spent on direct project expenses, including but not limited to staff time, freelancer fees, technology or event expenses. No funds should be used for an organization’s general and administrative expenses. No funds may be used for lobbying or other political activities. Unspent funds will be returned to API. Records are subject to audit at API’s expense and should be retained. Specific terms will be laid out in an official funding agreement.

WHAT KIND OF PROJECT SCOPE IS API LOOKING FOR?

API is intentionally distributing small grants to help news organizations experiment with how they inform their fall 2022 election coverage. Applicants should be realistic about what they aim to achieve during the grant period. This program is designed to help with experiments now that can lay the groundwork for larger initiatives in 2023 and 2024, and applicants are asked to keep in mind the big picture purpose in their application.

HOW WILL PROJECTS BE EVALUATED?

API staff will evaluate project proposals against the following criteria:

  • The target audience for the project is clearly defined
  • The news organization or individual demonstrates the capacity to reach and serve the defined audience
  • The project has the potential to meaningfully benefit the defined audience
  • The project scope seems achievable within the grant period
  • The project, in whole or part, demonstrates the potential to be built upon beyond the funding period (August – November 2022)

Please email elections@pressinstitute.org if you have any questions.