If we want to grow movements for social transformation, we must build, tend, and cultivate transformative media. At Truthout, we’ve come to understand that this goal shouldn’t just mean fostering the growth of our one publication; we need a broad and thriving ecosystem of varied grassroots journalism organizations full of wisdom and heart, helping to manifest dreams of a better world.
As Truthout has grown and overcome obstacles over the past two decades, working all the while to adhere to a people-powered, values-driven model, we’ve accumulated some hard-earned lessons. We developed a groundbreaking structure that allowed us to provide free news and analysis while sustaining ourselves primarily on small donations. We were the first digital news organization to form a union. We broke with many of our peers early on to take firm stances on issues like corporate power, migrant rights and borders, the prison-industrial complex, Palestine solidarity, and trans rights. We’ve worked to figure out how to put our values into practice in the workplace, developing a set of policies that reflected our vision for how society should be. We’ve made and continue to make mistakes, and work hard to learn from them.
Now, drawing from these lessons, we have launched the Truthout Center for Grassroots Journalism, a program to assist other social justice-driven media organizations, including emerging publications, in building their power and developing structures to sustain themselves for the long haul. Maya Schenwar, Truthout’s editor-at-large and former editor-in-chief, serves as the Center’s director. This initiative is our commitment to devote a small slice of our staff resources to supporting other important organizations in sustaining and flourishing, to help grow the critical media ecosystem necessary to build grassroots power. Listen to a recent interview about the Center here.
The Center includes the following components:
We’re offering advice, mentorship, and support to grassroots and emerging media organizations who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford such assistance:
– Leadership guidance and mentoring
– Strategic support for distribution and audience/reach expansion
– Fundraising strategy guidance
– Access to development databases
– Guidance on editorial processes and infrastructure
– Consultation on whether, why, what and/or how to grow
– Other stuff! If you are a radical, transformative media organization looking to build power—and you can’t afford ongoing support—feel free to reach out.
We’ll offer ongoing help to a small handful of organizations at a time, but will take on more as time allows and if the project expands. We’re already at capacity for the next few months, but if you’d like to be considered for assistance in the summer or fall, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Currently, we’re providing or preparing to provide strategic support for projects including Convergence Magazine (a magazine of radical insights that uplifts organizing stories), Stateville Speaks (a prison newsletter that is produced for and, in part, by people incarcerated in Illinois), Waging Nonviolence (a platform dedicated to providing original reporting and expert analysis of social movements around the world), Shadowproof (a reader-supported press organization that exposes abuses of power in government and business) & the Beyond Prisons Podcast, Berrett-Koehler Publishers (an independent publisher aimed at creating “a world that works for all”), and Knock LA (a community journalism project working to “tell the real story of LA”).
As a flexible project aimed at building a more vibrant and robust independent media ecosystem, we are open to collaborations on events and workshops. For example, we will be working with Zealous (an organization that challenges injustice through media, storytelling and the arts) to brainstorm possibilities for bringing together organizers and independent journalists. We’re working on ongoing collaborations with AirGo Radio, Inquest, and other partner organizations. Additionally, we are collaborating with Prison Neighborhood Arts Project to co-teach a class in prison on writing nonfiction, working to nurture independent media behind bars. We’re also part of a project working to convene a number of movement-media organizations to imagine ways to better partner with each other.
If you have a suggestion for a collaboration, please email us at email@example.com.
Keeley Schenwar Memorial Essay Prize Program
The Truthout Center for Grassroots Journalism also houses the Keeley Schenwar Memorial Essay Prize, for work authored by people who are currently or formerly incarcerated. The prize is part of our work to broaden social justice journalism in ways that uplift and highlight the work of incarcerated authors.
Since 2021, we have awarded two prizes, each for an original essay of 1,500 words or less on the topic of prisons, policing or a related subject. Each of the two winners is awarded $3,000. The essays are published in Truthout and widely distributed, functioning as a form of popular education.
This year’s prize is now open for entries. Please see here for more information and links to previous winning essays.