The Dallas Morning News launches two new programs to engage audiences and serve diverse local communities with $250,000 from Knight Foundation

New support will help expand “Insiders” blogs and fund media training program in local Hispanic communities

DALLAS—Nov. 25, 2014— The Dallas Morning News today announced two new initiatives that will help propel audience engagement: One, will introduce new digital tools to empower community residents to create content and connect over issues important to them; the second will provide Hispanic parents with media training so they can help inform their communities about early childhood education programs.  The programs are supported by $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“We believe these new initiatives will allow us to tap into community information needs and better serve our audiences,” said Bob Mong, editor of The Dallas Morning News. “They will help us leverage media innovation to address challenges and advance progress in our community.”

“Engaging the community in finding new, innovative ways to inform people is vital to ensuring that journalism works to strengthen our democracy,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism. “With these programs, The Morning News is helping to create a platform for community news-driven solutions, while sparking deeper connections between residents.”

Knight support will allow The Dallas Morning News to add new digital engagement tools to its Insiders blogs, created by handpicked community residents who cover topics from special needs and disability to craft beer and LGBT issues. The new tools will be designed to encourage the wider community to connect with resident contributors. Tools include: social networks that will allow people to personalize their interactions with contributors; an online “must list” where insiders can recommend content that would be of interest to their community; and forums where the people can discuss issues and pose questions to insiders. The Morning News staff will support community reporters, in using the tools to create their own unique voice.

A portion of the funding will also go to the Hispanic Families Network, which started as a Dallas Morning News pilot program in the city’s Bachman Lake neighborhood. The program will officially launch Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center in Northwest Dallas.

The goal of the Hispanic Families Network is to use media innovation to engage local Hispanic communities around issues that are important to them. Specifically, the program will train parents in these communities to become citizen journalists; they will report, write, blog and use social media to share information about access to kindergarten and literacy programs with the larger community.

A disproportionate number of Hispanic children in several Dallas neighborhoods are not literate by the completion of third grade, which is a key predictor of future success. In Texas in 2013, 83 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders scored below a proficient reading level, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“Our goal with this network is to apply innovative citizen-centered journalism techniques to empower and motivate parents to help their children succeed,” said Cynthia Pérez-Vadillo, the Hispanic Families Network coordinator for The Dallas Morning News. “In addition to Knight Foundation, we’ve had many partners that have helped us form this network. I am inspired by the commitment of participating parents and the innovative engagement of the participating agencies.”

The Hispanic Families Network enlisted Doris Luft Santos Baker, Ph.D., a leading bilingual reading researcher from the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University to help train parents and evaluate the program.

“Working closely with Hispanic families has helped me realize that often families appear to be disengaged from their children’s academic life, not because of a lack of interest, but because of the lack of information about how to best support them academically,” said Baker, who has worked with Hispanic families in Oregon and Texas for the last four years.

In addition to the first program in Bachman Lake, a second phase will launch in Pleasant Grove in January 2015, with a third following in Oak Cliff in April. Ongoing training sessions will be offered in each area through August 2015.

Several community partner agencies are also playing a critical role in developing the Hispanic Families Network by identifying mothers who would be good candidates for the program. Agencies include Avance, The Concilio, Catholic Charities of Dallas, The Dallas Public Library and supporters of the Zero to Five Funders Collaborative, including the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and The Dallas Foundation.

The Morning News and its Spanish-language publication Al Día developed research and training modules for the Hispanic Families Network in partnership with Southern Methodist University. The newspapers also engaged support from other community organizations including Commit!, Communities Foundation of Texas and the University of North Texas.

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About Al Día
Al Día, the award winning and leading Spanish-language newspaper in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, is published Wednesday and Saturday. Along with its website, www.aldiatx.com, Al Día has received numerous awards for excellence in journalism, including being named the 2009 and 2011 Spanish-Language Newspaper of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors (TAPME). Al Día is published by The Dallas Morning News, the flagship subsidiary of A. H. Belo Corp. (NYSE: AHC). 

About The Dallas Morning News

Established in 1885, The Dallas Morning News is Texas’ leading newspaper and the flagship newspaper subsidiary of A. H. Belo Corp. It has received nine Pulitzer Prizes since 1986, as well as numerous other industry awards recognizing the quality of its investigative and feature journalism, design and photojournalism. Its portfolio of print and digital products reaches an average daily audience of more than 1.1 million people and includes online news and information sites; iPhone, Android and iPad apps; Al Día (www.aldiatx.com), the leading Spanish-language publication in North Texas; neighborsgo (www.neighborsgo.com), a consumer-generated community news outlet; and Briefing, the free, home-delivered quick-read. In addition to the editorial drivers within The Morning News, CrowdSource (www.thecrowdsource.com) was created as an independent business division to assist event organizers and producers with its operational, marketing and promotional needs. To advertisers, the portfolio of products is represented by DMNmedia (www.DMNmedia.com), the marketing solutions group of The Dallas Morning News Inc. For more information about the publication and its entities, visit www.dallasnews.com.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more information, please visit KnightFoundation.org.

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CONTACTS:

Kerri Fulks, The Dallas Morning News, 972-499-6617, kerri.fulks@hck2.com

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, media@knightfoundation.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.