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J-Lab Announces Winners in First New Media Women Entrepreneurs Competition

July 15, 2008
For immediate release

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

Washington, D.C. - Three entrepreneurial news ideas - for public storytelling installations, a networking site for Puget Sound’s military community and a news site for and by Latinas - each won $10,000 in a competition that forecast the kinds of fresh and intriguing ideas women have for the future of news.

The three ideas, proposed by four women affiliated with traditional news organizations, were selected from 190 proposals received in only nine weeks as part of the McCormick Foundation New Media Women Entrepreneurs initiative.

“These ideas were sharp and doable; the women were extremely accomplished; and their confidence level was inspiring,” said Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, which administers the program. “All the proposals had an unrelenting focus on social responsibility, advancing knowledge and building capacity in communities. Many more of these ideas deserve to be supported.”

The McCormick Foundation funds the New Media Women Entrepreneurs initiative. “Recognizing and rewarding women entrepreneurs in digital media reflects the foundation’s deep commitment to journalistic innovation,” said Clark Bell, the foundation’s Journalism Program Director.

Each project will receive $10,000 to launch within a year and project leaders will blog about their experience at The winners are:

  • Echo, a public art and civic journalism project, will produce and collect stories tied to physical locations throughout Atlanta. Signs with Echo phone number and location ID will invite pedestrians and cyclists to access a story about that site via cell phone, podcast or the Web. “When a space becomes inscribed with cultural or personal stories, it transforms into a place of significance,” said project leaders Lila King and Karyn Lu, movers behind CNN’s user-generated site They said they were eager “to evolve the digital medium in a way that ... makes our city a more transformative, beautiful, and connected place for everyone who lives here.”
  • Northwest Navy News will be a participatory site serving the 140,000 active-duty Navy and Coast Guard members, reservists, base employees and retirees in the Puget Sound area with database-driven, interactive guides to housing, schools, military discounts, and a social network for military spouses and children coping with deployment and family relocation. Project leader Elaine Helm Norton, new media editor at The Daily Herald in Everett, Wash., and a former military beat reporter, envisions a “medium for military families in the region to connect with one another and also for journalists like me to connect with them. ... Nobody in journalism or the military has done much online to engage” military families.
  • Latina Voices will be a new Web site offering daily news and commentary by and for Latina women, covering such topics as immigration, health care, politics, education and culture. Project leader Teresa Puente, a journalism professor at Columbia College Chicago and member of the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, said, “Much of what is out there for Latinas is basically fluff. Personally, I don’t care how J. Lo has decorated her nursery. Latina women want information that is deeper than that.”

The Advisory Board of judges also cited three runners up:

  • Portable Publishing Studio - A proposal by Slumgullion Community Print Shop of Missoula, Mont., to create opportunities for citizens to participate in on-the-spot publishing of their own newspaper, using a printer, scanner, camera and solar-power generator. Said project leaders Debby Florence, Violet Olsen, Courtney Blazon and Katie Ludwick, “with our portable press, we will make print publishing as instant and portable as the Internet.”
  • - “The Mom Economy” author Elizabeth Wilcox’s idea to launch a one-stop directory and portal for news, free professional listings and referrals to help Metro Boston parents and children with special educational issues. “One function of is to allow users to search and endorse providers,” Wilcox said.
  • Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE) - A citizen journalism project and best practices warehouse led by Pittsburgh native Abby Wilson and Detroiter Sarah Szurpicki that seeks to leverage stories and ideas to help revitalize the challenged post-industrial Great Lakes cities. “We are interested in uncovering creative solutions to ‘rustbelt-city problems,’ ” they said.

The advisors selected projects that seemed immediately doable, sustainable and would deliver news and information. Participating in the judging were: Vivian Vahlberg, managing director of Northwestern University’s Media Management Center; Chhayal Parikh, mobile journalist for U.S. News & World Report; Cynthia Miller, regional vice president of WrightWay Consulting, Inc.; Sara Melillo, Program Officer for the McCormick Foundation’s Journalism Program; Lee Becker, director of the Cox Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia; Maurine Beasley, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland’s Merrill College of Journalism and author of “Taking Their Place: A Documentary History of Women and Journalism”; Amy Eisman, director of Writing Programs at the American University School of Communication; and J-Lab’s Jan Schaffer and associate director Julie Drizin. Hear their feedback:

Of the 190 proposals:

  • 21 percent focused on social issues such as sustainable farming and the environment.
  • 16 percent aimed to create new media to reach and serve ethnic and minority communities.
  • 16 percent offered projects by, for, or about youth.
  • 21 percent focused on women or family issues.

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. Research will tell what more to do. A summit in 2009 will showcase women’s creative ideas.

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

J-Lab, a center of American University’s School of Communication in Washington, D.C., 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.       


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