The University of New Orleans, which operates WWNO-FM, today announced revised plans to support a collaborative, nonprofit multimedia news operation, expanding the reporting role of The Lens and increasing the NPR affiliate’s focus on news and cultural information.
The new plan shifts the effort from creating NewOrleansReporter.org and its newsroom to building on the established expertise, brand and platform of The Lens, at TheLensNola.org. The revisions will increase efficiency, reduce duplication and enable the collaborative effort to begin its work more quickly.
“Clearly, things are happening swiftly on the New Orleans news scene,” said Lens Managing Editor Steve Beatty. “These changes let us deftly get The Lens and WWNO in strong positions to best serve our audiences.”
The Lens plans to build out a more advanced website to showcase multimedia and better provide its public-interest journalism to users on mobile devices and tablets. It also intends to increase staff from 8 to 10 in the next month, with further growth projected in 2013. Reporters will continue to concentrate on government accountability, education, criminal justice, land use, and environmental issues, particularly flood protection. The Lens also plans to examine health-care issues and scrutinize state-level policy decisions that affect the New Orleans region.
WWNO will collaborate with The Lens to produce multiplatform content, and WWNO’s broadcast news staff will cover general assignment news, arts and culture on wwno.org, in collaboration with the cultural nonprofit site NolaVie.com. This will ensure that deeply reported stories designed to educate, engage and empower readers and listeners will reach the broadest audience possible, regardless of access to the Internet.
Community partners Greater New Orleans, Inc.; the Urban League of Greater New Orleans; the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region; and the Greater New Orleans Foundation will support fundraising efforts for the effort. UNO will continue to house the WWNO newsroom, which will provide space for collaborating reporters from The Lens. The Lens will also maintain its current newsroom.
“Our mission remains the same,” said UNO President Peter J. Fos. “We aim to be a catalyst in developing a strong, sustainable model for nonprofit, multimedia journalism that will serve the greater New Orleans area as an open source of trustworthy news and information. We also believe that our region benefits when numerous and diverse voices are represented in news coverage and commentary.”
WWNO and The Lens will share content across broadcast, mobile and online platforms.
In the seven weeks since UNO’s nonprofit news initiative was announced, discussions yielded a modified plan that will better accomplish the aims of the participating organizations.
“In this way, we will be able to achieve the original budget, staffing and reporting goals of NewOrleansReporter.org while reducing duplication and building on established infrastructure,” WWNO General Manager Paul Maassen said.
In the past six months, The Lens or its staff members have received a National Edward R. Murrow Award, the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics in Journalism Award, a regional Emmy nomination, top honors as the best news website from at the 54th Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards sponsored by the New Orleans Press Club, and two of the three top Press Club awards for investigative reporting.
The Lens was founded by Karen Gadbois and Ariella Cohen, and it began publishing in January 2010.