AL DÍA is in the process of launching its Higher Ed Journalism Lab. 
AL DÍA is in the process of launching its Higher Ed Journalism Lab. 

AL DÍA and Local Media Association to launch journalism lab on higher ed


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Fact-based, independent local reporting from diverse teams of reporters during an era of rapid social and demographic change in the United States is vital to journalism – but it’s frequently too expensive for all but the largest media entities to afford on an ongoing basis. This year the Local Media Association (LMA) – a national news media trade organization with more than 3,000 local print, broadcast and online media outlets – is trying to change that and has named AL DÍA as one of 16 news organizations across the country to receive their support. 

The Center for Journalism Funding, a six-month lab operated by the LMA with support from the Google News Initiative, aims to strengthen the understanding and capabilities of local news organizations regarding fundraising programs and working with philanthropic organizations to support journalism projects. The LMA lab has two goals: drive at least $2.25 million in funding for journalism projects for the 16 publishers combined, and to publish an extensive industry playbook on funding journalism through philanthropy. 

Philanthropic support for journalism was identified by the LMA’s Accelerate Local as one of the biggest opportunities for local news and one of its three core pillars in helping newsrooms grow their business. Many local news organizations are interested in learning how to match journalism projects with funders in their markets. The Seattle Times, the industry leader in this space, has been hired by the LMA to provide faculty support for the Center for Journalism Funding lab and will help develop the coaching curriculum, which will be led by the LMA’s Chief Innovation Officer, Frank Mungeam. 

“These newsrooms have a strong vision for how philanthropy could support important local journalism,” said Mungeam. “Philanthropy can be an important pillar in a transformed business model for local news, especially as a way to fund critical coverage beats.” According to LMA Chief Executive Officer Nancy Lane, “We selected companies that were largely family-owned, with strong local leadership who were investing in their newsrooms. AL DÍA was selected for the lab for their commitment to lifting up the voices and stories of the Latino community.” 

As part of the LMA initiative, AL DÍA News launched the Journalism Lab on Higher Education, a multi-year reporting project that will shed light on the transformation – and crisis – of America’s professional workforce in the 21st Century. The lab has received the support of Philadelphia area colleges and universities, including Villanova, Widener University and the Philadelphia Community College, among others. 

“I often say that the evolving reality of U.S. society is ahead of the media’s current capacity to reflect it,” said Hernán Guaracao, Founder and CEO of AL DÍA. AL DÍA began building the Journalism Lab on Higher Education with the premise that the biggest asset of the U.S. economy is a competent workforce.

“While corporations confront the challenge of finding well-trained candidates to expand the diversity of their workforces, colleges and universities are facing a steep decline in enrollment and graduation,” Guaracao added. 

AL DÍA’s goal with the Center for Journalism Funding lab is to raise $780,000 to hire a data journalist, two reporters and a deputy editor for a minimum three-year-long project. Prior to being selected as a participant in the LMA initiative, the project had already raised $75,000. AL DÍA aims to invite numerous philanthropists and foundations to contribute so it can begin the hiring process. Once the four positions are filled, the new unit can start tackling a list of projects for its journalism lab.

In addition to generating hundreds of news stories each year, the journalism lab will also organize a Higher Education Leaders Summit and publish an annual report on colleges and universities that are successfully attracting Latino and multicultural students. 

“Professional workforce development through education is a crisis brewing in the dark in this country because most media, and in particular local media, do not have the resources to cover it,” said Guaracao. “With this initiative, we hope to start a much-needed public conversation to find short and long-term solutions.”

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