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Truthout Center for Grassroots Journalism

An initiative to help build the critical media ecosystem necessary to build grassroots power.

Truthout Center for Grassroots Journalism

An initiative to help build the critical media ecosystem necessary to build grassroots power.

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.

We have drawn from those lessons to launch 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:

Assistance

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 offer ongoing help to 5-7 organizations at a time. We’re currently at capacity, but if you’d like to be considered for assistance in future months, please email us at center@truthout.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), Knock LA (a community journalism project working to “tell the real story of LA”), The Rapidian (a hyperlocal community-driven news hub in Grand Rapids, Michigan) and The Kansas City Defender (a Black nonprofit community media platform serving Kansas City, Missouri).

The Center mails a quarterly newsletter uplifting the recent work of partner publications to Truthout subscribers. (Subscribe to the Truthout list here!)

Collaborations

As a flexible project aimed at building a more vibrant and robust independent media ecosystem, we foster collaborations among social justice-driven news organizations. In late 2023, we collaborated with In These Times and Convergence to bring together representatives from 14 varied left media organizations for a convening in Chicago, to explore possibilities for working together and building impactful projects. We’re facilitating ongoing collaborations between Truthout and Zealous, Teen Vogue, Inquest, Deceleration, and other partner organizations. Last year, we collaborated with Prison Neighborhood Arts Project to co-teach a class in prison on writing nonfiction, working to nurture independent media behind bars.

If you have a suggestion for a collaboration, please email us at center@truthout.org.

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.

If you’d like to support the Truthout Center for Grassroots Journalism, you can reach out to center@truthout.org or make a donation here.