Philadelphia, here we come: We won a Lenfest Institute grant

Filed Under: Costs

We’re elated to announce that ClearHealthCosts won a grant in the new Lenfest Institute’s first funding round for innovation in journalism, to spread health cost transparency  to the Philadelphia metro area.

We’ll use shoe-leather reporting, crowdsourcing, data journalism and other tools to tell people what stuff costs with the Philadelphia Media Network — The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News and philly.com — with the aid of  grant money from Lenfest.

Our grant was one of several in a $2 million round of funding, the institute’s first, announced today. In the category of “public service and investigative journalism,” in the Philadelphia Media Network-centered part of the grant funding announcement, our work is described in these words: “Consumer Healthcare Coverage: PMN will add both reporting and web-development capabilities to examine local healthcare data and issues related to health costs and quality to help consumers make more informed decisions.” PMN editors have several initiatives planned, including ours, in this domain.

Other grantees include a number of big names in journalism: the Solutions Journalism Network, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Backyard Media, the News Revenue Hub, WHYY public radio and WURD radio, among others. The grant announcement is here.

Our national partnership strategy

This continues our national strategy of bringing transparency to health care not only on our home site, but also in partnership with other news organizations, including WVUE Fox 8 Live and NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune in New Orleans; KQED public radio in San Francisco; KPCC public radio in Los Angeles; WLRN public radio in Miami; WUSF public radio in Tampa-St. Petersburg; their Florida partnership, Health News Florida; and MedPage Today, a provider of news, opinion and medical education to 670,000 providers. Read about our national partnerships here.

We had a previous partnership in Philadelphia with WHYY public radio, which ran for several months in 2015 and then went into hiatus. Read about that partnership here.

This post from NiemanLab describes our partnership in New Orleans with WVUE FOX 8 Live and NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune, our largest to date.

Our work has been funded by a few angel investors and also by grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation (via the International Women’s Media Foundation), the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York, the McCormick Foundation (via J-Lab at American University) and others.

Lenfest’s first call for grants

This was the first open call for grants from the Lenfest Institute, and Lenfest officials said “the quantity and quality of the applications was impressive.” We learned that the number of applications was well above 300, for just a very few grants.

“We were delighted by the response to our open call for innovative ideas to help advance the business of local journalism,” said Jim Friedlich, executive director of the Institute. “Our only regret is that we were not able to support more of the exciting ideas that were proposed.”

“The Institute was founded with the belief that local journalism depends for its success on investment in high-impact news content, best-of-breed digital product development, and the cultivation of a new, diverse and growing audience of readers,” Friedlich said. He also thanked donors who contributed to the fund from which the grants were drawn,  “for their commitment to great, local journalism.”

About the institute, from its web site: “The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is the first-of-its-kind non-profit organization whose sole mission is to develop and support sustainable business models for great local journalism. The Institute was founded in 2016 by cable television entrepreneur H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest. Lenfest gifted to the Institute an initial endowment of $20 million, which has since been supplemented by other donors, for investment in innovative news initiatives, new technology, and new models for sustainable journalism. Lenfest also gifted his ownership of the Philadelphia Media Network (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and philly.com, the Philadelphia region’s largest local news website) and these news properties now serve as a live lab for the Institute’s innovation efforts. The Institute is overseen by a Board of Managers including news executives, media entrepreneurs, software and technology executives, philanthropists, community leaders and leading academics.

“The Philadelphia news properties are now the largest newspapers in America operated as a public-benefit corporation, under the non-profit ownership of the Institute, dedicated solely to the mission of preserving local journalism nationwide. These news properties will also serve as a live lab for the Institute’s innovation investments.