Racine County Eye has received a grant from the Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF) to help them serve a more diverse audience and engage with readers through a mobile technology platform.
Created by The News Integrity Initiative (NII), the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the grant will help Racine County Eye reporters produce more relevant news through technology.
The grant will help pay for GroundSource, a mobile engagement platform. Racine County Eye users will be able to access content via text messages, answer online interviews, and submit story tips. Users will be able to opt-in or out of receiving messages and have the ability to sign-up for topic-specific newsletters.
Coming up on its fifth year, Racine County Eye is owned by veteran journalist Denise Lockwood. The site has covered a number of issues facing Racine County, including mental health, environmental issues, and Foxconn Technology Group.
“We are excited about receiving this grant,” Lockwood said. “Too often people who are low-income cannot afford the cost of broadband access and as a result, they can not access the news because of it.”
A privately-held company, Racine County Eye has over 40,000 monthly users and is on track to have over 2 million page views this year. Lockwood, a veteran award-winning journalist, has spent 19 years covering southeastern Wisconsin communities.
One way the news website hopes to help the region is around the topic of barriers to employment. Racine County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. With 22,000 jobs coming to the area, businesses are under significant pressure to hire people. But over 14,000 people in Racine County don’t have a GED. So Racine County Eye plans on pulling together resource pages around several employment topics.
“This is truly a game-changer for us and our readers because it connects the community with the information it needs — the whole community and not just the ones who pay for the news,” Lockwood said. “And… the grant couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Starting in late September, Racine County Eye will be working on a series about barriers to employment. The series will focus on identifying employers struggling to fill jobs through the lens of attracting talent, retaining employees, and reintegrating prisoners into the workforce.
“We plan to use GroundSource’s technology to connect cell phone users with education and training resource lists and job listings via SMS text messages,” Lockwood said. “But we’ll also use the technology in the news-gathering process as well.”
Racine County Eye is also looking for sponsors around our employment content and our news tip line.
If your company or social service agency is hiring and would like to be a sponsor of our year-long series, please email Trudy Coombs at [email protected]
Since you’re here…
We have a favor to ask. We want access to our stories to remain free for everyone, so we haven’t put up a paywall to block our content. But we need your help! Producing our content requires lots of hard work and money, but we believe it’s 100% worth it and so we’re inviting you to support our mission by funding it.
Also, Racine County Eye received an investigative journalism grant from the Local Independent Online News publishers’ association and the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Now we are looking for our community to match this $1,500 grant. Please consider making your contribution today at either $5, $10 or $20/month. We’ve got goodies galore for you too. Interested, click here.
We’re hosting a member-only event Oct. 7 called Jammin’ for Journalism. Hope to see you there!