Boston Foundation awarded $400K grant to strengthen local new media communications

Funding will help transform, expand CommonWealth magazine intoan interactive, digital resource with stronger reporting, research staffing

January 15, 2009

Boston –The Boston Foundation has been awarded a major grant by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation   as part of a ground-breaking, national initiative to help strengthen news reporting in the community. The $400,000 two-year grant will support an expansion of CommonWealth Magazine, a quarterly magazine published by MassINC, the nonpartisan public affairs think tank founded in 1996 to provide unbiased information about significant challenges facing the state of Massachusetts.

The goal of the project is to transform CommonWealth into a digital, interactive resource, adding new investigative reporting and research staff to strengthen and expand its ability to hold government agencies accountable. The new funding, which has been matched by the Boston Foundation, will also create a “What Works” desk at CommonWealth to research and report on programs and policies proven successful elsewhere in the country that could be replicated here.

“This initiative comes at a time of profound change in the way we gather and distribute news and serves a real and growing need for innovative strategies that can serve the needs of the whole community,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “We need to develop new, credible and accountable ways to make information available to the widest possible audience, and this initiative can serve as the catalyst to do exactly that.”

The Boston Foundation's plan to work with CommonWealth Magazine was one of 21 winning applications from across the country that will receive a total of $5 million this year. They are part of the Knight Community Information Challenge, a five-year, $24 million initiative to foster developments in new media to keep communities engaged. The grant was awarded on a competitive basis, with a commitment by the Boston Foundation to match the funds provided, and follows an initial grant from the Boston Foundation of $200,000 to MassINC for the same project in September, 2008. The Knight Challenge provides matching dollars to projects put forward by the community foundations that they had already funded themselves.

“This is a very important time for civic journalism,” said Greg Torres, President of MassINC and Publisher of CommonWealth Magazine. “To have this level of support from both a local foundation with the civic stature of the Boston Foundation and a national organization like the Knight Foundation, with its great heritage in journalism, is an extraordinary opportunity.”

Projects including among the 21 winning proposals reflect both the diversity of community needs and the current status of traditional media. A project in Connecticut’s Lower Naugatuck Valley will create a “hyper-local” web-based news site to serve five ethnically diverse towns that have lost both their local newspaper and their local radio station in the past decade. A winning proposal from Minnesota will create a partnership to address community problems with Minnesota Public Radio as a media partner. Some projects are focused on end-use information consumers. In Boulder, Colorado, a project will reach out to 18-30 year-old residents who have not attended college to experiment with new media to engage them in civic issues.


About the Boston Foundation
The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation.  In Fiscal Year 2008, the Foundation and its donors made close to $79 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of $113 million, bringing its assets to $838 million.  The Foundation is made up of some 900 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes.  The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener, and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges.  For more information about the Boston Foundation, visit or call 617-338-1700.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of the U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation supports ideas and projects that create transformational change. Visit

About MassINC
The Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC) is a nonpartisan, evidence based organization. Its mission is to develop a public agenda for Massachusetts that promotes the growth and vitality of the middle class. Its governing philosophy is rooted in the ideals embodied in the American Dream: equality of opportunity, personal responsibility, and a strong commonwealth. MassINC publishes the quarterly journal, CommonWealth.