The team for NewsFuel — an Accelerate Local project to enable easier matching of news organizations seeking funding for journalism projects with entities that provide that funding — has selected a design and development firm to work on the enabling platform, as well as strategic advisors from media and funding interests.

NewsFuelNewsFuel was one of 34 projects in North America funded by the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge in late October.

Cantina, a Boston-based design and development firm, will build out a web-based, “minimum viable product” version of the NewsFuel matching service. Cantina clients include a mix of e-commerce/e-service companies, health care groups, universities and media — including Viacom, Pearson Education and NESN.

This platform, expected to launch in the second quarter of 2020, will allow journalists and news organizations seeking funding for projects or programs to match with sources of funding that align with the need — and in many cases begin the grant application or inquiry process within the platform.

In February, Cantina will convene initial vision and design “sprints” that include in-depth brainstorming and vetting with the project team as well as interviews with NewsFuel advisors, including:

  • Todd Franko, Report for America
  • Jennifer Choi, managing director, News Integrity Initiative (CUNY)
  • Melissa Davis, vice president, strategic communications and informed communities, Gates Family Foundation
  • Hernan Guaracao, chief executive officer, Al Dia
  • Catherine Badalamente, chief innovation officer, Graham Media
  • Neil Chase, chief executive officer, CalMatters
  • Jon Rust, co-president, Rust Communications
  • Jim Brady, chief executive officer, Spirited Media
  • Bill Church, senior vice president/news, Gannett

“Incorporating the voice of the customer from the outset in the development of NewsFuel is essential, Jed Williams, chief strategy officer at LMA and Accelerate Local, said. “Just as important is having diverse stakeholders involved to ensure that the platform provides value to the full media ecosystem. We’re eager to embark on this process alongside these terrific partners.” 

In the first phase, the NewsFuel team plans to add more than 8,500 media organizations to the funding database, including more than 1,200 daily newspapers, 1,300 TV affiliates, 1,000 news radio affiliates, 600 or more local digital publishers, and 4,500 public TV and radio affiliates.

The team has begun research to identify a broad swath of potential funders, from global and national scale foundations to regional and civic organizations, individual philanthropists, and others. The first-year goal is to consummate 20 grants to approximately 15-20 news organizations.

The first release of the platform will offer essential matching capabilities for both funders and fund-seekers, and ways for participants to be notified when new opportunities are added to the database. NewsFuel plans also include advisory services, more advanced application entry and administration capabilities, and expansion of the database to include journalism fellowships, training scholarships and more types of funding opportunities in support of local news.

NewsFuel was conceived and is operated as part of Accelerate Local, the business model accelerator of Local Media Association, with a mission to reinvent business models for news. LMA also plans to launch its own funding entity to support journalism, according to Nancy Lane, chief executive officer of LMA.

“In conjunction with NewsFuel, we will launch the Fund for Local Journalism later this year,” Lane said. “The fund will provide a structure and fiscal sponsorship allowing both nonprofit and for-profit newsrooms to receive philanthropic funding for in-depth, investigative, accountability and solutions journalism projects without the burden of setting up their own 501(c)(3) and diverting resources to grant management.”

Anyone interested in supporting the Fund for Local Journalism should contact Lane at