June 29, 2010

Washington, D.C. – Four diverse news ideas – including an augmented reality mobile application, a New Orleans cultural affairs reporting partnership, an investigative blogging initiative, and a resource site for parents dealing with drug-addicted children – each won a $12,000 award to launch their projects in the coming year.

The award winners were selected from a whopping 576 proposals received in the third year of the McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs initiative. Applications increased 32 percent over last year’s 435, signaling the degree of imagination and market opportunities surfacing among women media entrepreneurs, said Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, which administers the program.

“This year’s proposals not only identified smart opportunities, they also revealed significant technical know-how and business sensibilities for sustaining the projects,” Schaffer said. Winning proposals had clear ideas of how to use the funds, prospects for scaling larger and smart plans to frequently update and market their projects, Schaffer said. J-Lab is a center of American University’s School of Communication in Washington, D.C.

More ideas will be shared at the Nov. 8 New Media Women Entrepreneurs Summit in Washington, D.C. To attend, register at http://www.newmediawomen.org/events/register.

“The ambitious creativity of women media entrepreneurs shines brightly,” said Clark Bell, Journalism Program Director for the Chicago-based McCormick Foundation, which funds the New Media Women Entrepreneurs initiative. “The difficult part of this process is selecting four winners among the scores of worthy, viable new business ideas.”

Each project will receive $12,000 to launch within a year and project leaders will blog about their experience at www.newmediawomen.org. The winners are:

* NolaVie – New Orleans’ vibrant culture will take center stage with NolaVie, an unusual public/private partnership to cover arts and culture and publish it on Nola.com, the Times-Picayune newspaper’s website. NolaVie will be populated by experienced journalists and members of various cultural organizations and be run by a local businesswoman and former editors and writers at the newspaper.

* Investigative Mommy Blogger – Building on a successful report on the safety of shopping carts, a team lead by social media expert Kelby Carr will focus on other investigations using a network of mom bloggers. This cadre of Internet users is among the most connected and active, sharing stories and information virally. Led by two part-time workers, the network will help crowdsource stories. Carr, who also runs the Type-A Mom forum and conference, has been named one of the most influential women in social media.

* Mobile Black History Project – Imagine pointing your mobile phone at a Washington, D.C., landmark and reading about its relevance in African-American history. Layering data over real life is at the center of the emerging field of augmented reality, and this mobile phone application will bring black history to the forefront, starting with historic sites in Washington, D.C.  Retha Hill, a recent Knight News Challenge winner and director of the New Media Innovation Lab at Arizona State University, will run the project.

* Parents Unite Against Addiction – What began with nine mothers in California supporting each other through their children’s drug addictions has turned into an organization devoted to the idea of arming parents with information on how to handle the treacherous waters of substance abuse.  This site will allow users to pose questions to experts, find resources, schedule meet-ups and share stories. 

Among other notable entries this year were projects that used new tools for geolocation and aggregation; sought to tell stories with different formats, such as graphic novels; and focused on niche coverage areas, such as health care and travel with children.

The largest cluster of proposals,159, focused on new ideas for covering geographic communities; the second largest, 149, focused on women’s issues. Proposals to cover minority and youth issues, health and the environment were also well represented. To see the topic areas and past winners, go to www.newmediawomen.org.

Participating in this year’s judging were:  Lisa Williams, founder and CEO, Placeblogger.com; Lee Becker, director of the Cox Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, University of Georgia; Maria Ivancin, assistant professor, American University’s School of Communication; Chhayal Mehta, multimedia producer at the World Bank; Vivian Vahlberg, President, Vahlberg & Associates; Cindy Miller, managing partner, cindy.miller.atl communications; Janet Liao, journalism program officer, McCormick Foundation, and J-Lab’s Jan Schaffer.

The McCormick Foundation New Media Women Entrepreneurs (NMWE) is a unique initiative addressing opportunity and innovation, recruitment and retention for women in journalism by spotlighting their ingenuity and entrepreneurial abilities. Pilot projects will show what can be done.

The McCormick Foundation advances the ideals of a free, democratic society by investing in children, communities and country.

J-Lab helps journalists and citizens use digital technologies to develop new ways for people to participate in public life with projects on innovations in journalism, citizen media, interactive news stories, entrepreneurship, training and research and publications.

American University’s School of Communication is a laboratory for professional education, communication research and innovative production in the fields of journalism, film and media arts and public communication, working across media platforms and with a focus on public affairs and public service.