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J-Lab Announces Three Awards for New Media Women Entrepreneurs

July 15, 2009
For immediate release

For more information, contact:
Jan Schaffer 202-885-8100


Washington, D.C. - Three entrepreneurial news ideas - including franchises for community news sites, a food policy and strategies start-up, and a health Web site for women ages 18 to 27 - each won a $10,000 award to launch their projects in a robust competition that showcased keen energy and ideas for the future of news.

The award winners were selected from a whopping 435 proposals received in the second year of the McCormick Foundation New Media Women Entrepreneurs initiative.  The number of proposals increased 129 percent from last year’s total of 190.

“There was an incredibly competitive field of creative ideas to address specific issues proposed by women who have a great deal of optimism about the future of news and information,” said Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, which administers the program. J-Lab is a center of American University’s School of Communication in Washington, D.C.

The Chicago-based McCormick Foundation funds the New Media Women Entrepreneurs initiative. “We are elated about the number and quality of the proposals,” said Clark Bell, the foundation’s journalism program director. “This initiative showcases the energy, creativity and innovation of media entrepreneurs. These women are not waiting for the next big thing. They are determined to create it.”

Each project will receive $10,000 to launch within a year and project leaders will blog about their experience at www.newmediawomen.org. Three runners-up were also announced. The winners are:

  • ChickRx - Harvard MBA student Stacey Borden and partner Meghan Muntean will lead a team of women in launching an “edgy, approachable, engaging” online health resource uniquely targeted to women, ages 18 to 27. It will have content and Q&As, updated daily, from medical, family and nutrition experts, addressing such questions as: “Can drinking too much Diet Coke increase my risk of getting cancer?” “Can I lose five pounds in week without starving myself?” “Why am I unhappy, even though I know I shouldn’t be?” Borden is the former campus relations director of 85 Broads, a national professional women’s group.
     
  • Women’s Community News Franchise - Former MytopiaCafe.com editor Michelle Ferrier will develop a complete infrastructure, to be franchised, for those who want to launch hyperlocal news sites. A demo site will launch later this year in West Volusia County, Florida, piloting services that will include a Web platform, software development, market analysis, some content, and legal and marketing assistance. Such an infrastructure, says Ferrier, will permit citizen journalists and community members to “focus on what they are most passionate about - building their community conversation through good local information and networking.”
     
  • The Good Food Fight - Three media-savvy Seattle women will connect consumers interested in food with larger public policy issues that affect food choices, security, safety, health and sustainability. Partners Kristin Hyde, Jen Lamson and Amy Pennington will use their deep experience in policy, marketing, journalism and digital campaigns “to leverage the growing concern and interest in food with a call to arms.” They plan to use a business-to-business model as well as their own outreach to leverage support from subscribers, sponsors, donors and foundations.

“It’s encouraging to see all the outpouring of talent and interest,” said Advisory Board member Vivian Vahlberg. “There is a lot of pent-up creativity this [awards program] has tapped.”

“Everyone wants a hand in defining what’s next,” added board member Chhayal Parikh.

The Advisory Board of judges also cited three runners up.

  • Daily Phoenix - A plan to use the Web and text messaging to interact with light-rail users in the Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa areas of Arizona, using games, business promotions, and news for each stop on the 20-mile route. Proposed by co-founders Aleksandra Chojnacka, an Arizona State MBA student, and Adam Klawonn.
     
  • See Jane Grow - A plan by Lisa Kivirist, author of the award-winning book “ECOpreneuring” and innkeeper at Inn Serendipity in Wisconsin, to launch a resource and story-sharing portal for the growing numbers of women engaged in purchasing new farms and launching small, green, rural businesses. These women are “choosing quality of life and stewarding the land over a conventional ‘bigger is better’ mindset,” Kivirist said.
     
  • Echo Park TV - A site by documentary filmmaker Carolin Reiter to build community connections in a largely Hispanic and artistic neighborhood, known as the SoHo of Los Angeles, using Webcasts, newspapers, social networks and the sharing of design, music, and video skills.

Winning proposals had prospects for scaling larger and had clear ideas of how to use the funds, how to update content frequently and how to market their projects, Schaffer said.

This year, the largest cluster proposals, 77, focused on new ideas for geographic communities; the second largest cluster focused on racial and ethnic issues. Proposals to cover health and environmental issues were also well represented this year. To see the topic areas and last year’s winners, go to www.newmediawomen.org.

Participating in this year’s judging were: Vivian Vahlberg, former managing director, Northwestern University’s Media Management Center; Chhayal Parikh, Web editor at the World Bank; Cynthia Miller, managing partner, Newsroom Leadership Group; Lee Becker, director of the Cox Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, University of Georgia; Maria Ivancin, assistant professor and Amy Eisman, director of writing programs, American University School of Communication; Maurine Beasley, professor emeritus, University of Maryland’s Merrill College of Journalism and author of “Taking Their Place: A Documentary History of Women and Journalism”; Amy Lee, consultant for the 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. Coming soon is a new research report looking at women news consumers and news creators. A summit will be held this fall showcasing women’s creative ideas. To receive more information about the research and the summit e-mail news@j-lab.org.

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.

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