Pittsburgh Foundation starting online journalism venture

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The Pittsburgh Foundation Thursday said it planned to launch an online news venture in June to focus on reporting of in-depth, regional issues.

The nonprofit initiative will be funded with a $253,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami; and $325,000 from the Pittsburgh Foundation. The site will be produced at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Oakland. Plans call for an editor to oversee content supplied by freelancers and by media organizations.

Grant Oliphant, CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation, said the news site was part of the foundation's mission to engage local citizens in community decisions.

Because of cutbacks in the traditional newspaper industry, he said, "Deeper, explanatory reporting ... on substantive issues is going away .... This will hopefully supplement the traditional media in the community."

Charlie Humphrey, executive director of Filmmakers, said he had held discussions with local media outlets but that none had firmly committed to the project yet. He and Mr. Oliphant cited ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism website, as a model for the effort.

The grant from the Knight Foundation was one of 19 awards the organization made to local foundations as part of the Knight Community Information Challenge.

"It was a long shot" when Pittsburgh Foundation applied for it, said Mr. Oliphant, because Knight typically focuses its grant-making on communities where Knight-Ridder published newspapers. Knight-Ridder -- whose holdings included the Philadelphia Inquirer, San Jose Mercury News and the Miami Herald -- was acquired by McClatchy Co. in 2006.

While the funding covers one year of operation, Mr. Oliphant said he was optimistic Knight, the Pittsburgh Foundation and perhaps other local foundations would provide money to continue the venture.


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