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Four Women-Led News Ideas Awarded $56,000

For Release:
March 13, 2013

Contact: Jan Schaffer

Washington, D.C. – Four innovative news ideas – to cover the cultural narrative of food, build e-platforms for long-form women writers, expand Latino coverage in New England, and spotlight emerging women musicians –won $14,000 awards to develop their projects in the coming year.

The award winners were selected from 205 proposals received in the sixth year of the McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs initiative (NMWE). They join 18 other awardees selected from 2,011 applicants since 2008.

"To date, 100 percent of our winners have launched and 72 percent are still going strong," said Jan Schaffer, executive director J-Lab, which administers the program with McCormick Foundation funding. "These awesome women have established significant track records with their eye on niche opportunities."

Added Lisa Williams, founder and a NMWE Advisory Board member: “NMWE’s track record in producing businesses that launch a product, attract an audience, and are still in business at the year mark is far better than that of my high-tech angel network, and better than any VC I know."

The awardees are:

  • American Food Roots – A StoryCorps-meets-James Beard initiative to tell the nation's cultural, historical and personal food stories in video, audio and text. It is the brainchild of NPR commentator and food writer Bonny Wolf, Associated Press food and cultural writer Michele Kayal, cookbook author Domenica Marchetti, and former food editor Carol Guensburg. They are close to announcing partnerships with national institutions and media to publicize, expand and preserve the canon of American food stories.
  • First Person Female – An e-publishing, profit-sharing platform to be developed for quality, long-form journalism, memoir and fiction by women writers. Founders are Peggy Northrop, former Reader's Digest editor-in-chief, and best-selling author Laura Fraser.
  • Latino News Network (LNN) - An eight-month-old Connecticut-based news site serving English language-dominant Latinos that will expand to Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In addition to a daily site, LLN also provides its news articles at no cost to other English-language media partners to ensure the stories reach as many readers as possible. The founder is Latino journalism leader Diane Alverio.
  • Boxx Magazine – A newly launched site to cover women artists who are shaping the music industry. Launching Boxx are Jordan Young of the Knight Lab at Northwestern University and Selena Fragassi, Chicago Magazine's pop/rock critic.

"The great ideas just keep on coming," said Clark Bell, Journalism Director of the Chicago-based Robert R. McCormick Foundation. "The new winners are in very select company – 22 out of more than 2,000 applicants.  As in previous years, the judges had to make some very difficult decisions."

Each of the four projects will receive $12,000 over the next year and an additional $2,000 upon raising a match of $2,000. A total of $56,000 will be awarded. Project leaders will blog about their start-ups at

"For women entrepreneurs, that first bit of funding is an ignition point that increases public interest in the product and launches the entrepreneur herself as an expert and innovator," said Erin Polgreen, a 2012 winner for Symbolia, a comics journalism e-magazine. She credits the NMWE program with providing critical support for women looking to take the leap to become founders and entrepreneurs. "The financial and networking support this program provides makes it possible to innovate and create truly creative media solutions."

Participating in this year’s judging were: Lisa Williams, founder and CEO,; Cory Haik, executive producer for digital news, Washington Post; Ju-Don Roberts, general manager and senior vice president, Everyday Health; Vivian Vahlberg, President, Vahlberg & Associates; Ellen Warren, senior correspondent, Chicago Tribune; Maria Ivancin, assistant professor, American University’s School of Communication; Erin Polgreen, founder, Symbolia Magazine; Jennifer Choi, journalism program officer, McCormick Foundation, and J-Lab’s Jan Schaffer.

The McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs program addresses opportunity and innovation, recruitment and retention for women in journalism by spotlighting their ingenuity and entrepreneurial abilities.

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is committed to fostering communities of educated, informed and engaged citizens.

J-Lab is a journalism catalyst for igniting news ideas that work by funding pilot projects, awarding innovations and sharing practical insights from years of working with news creators. J-Lab is a center of American University’s School of Communication, 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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