Peer Learning + Collaboration Fund grantees visited City Bureau in Chicago to learn more about the Documenters and Public Newsroom programs. Photo by Joe Amditis.

Peer Learning + Collaboration Fund awards another $17K in grants for 2019

‘Share + Learn’ events with City Bureau and Outlier Media draw more than a dozen people each; next one planned in October with The Texas Tribune

Joe Amditis
Center for Cooperative Media
9 min readOct 28, 2019

In its second cycle of grant-making, the Peer Learning + Collaboration Fund supported peer-to-peer learning for journalists from New Hampshire to Illinois to California.

That includes the $17,000 we awarded over the last few months to assist journalists with travel to our “Share + Learn” events with City Bureau and Outlier Media.

And there’s still a lot more to come! (And still plenty of time for YOU to apply!)

The Peer Fund is an initiative to facilitate and accelerate peer learning, relationship building and collaboration among journalists, media makers and communicators in the United States. The Center for Cooperative Media is facilitating the Fund, which is generously supported by Democracy Fund.

In March, the Fund began awarding grants to support travel and convening expenses for grantees to meet and spend time with each other. We especially aim to support journalists of color, those who identify as low-income and those from, or intending to serve, underserved and underrepresented communities.

The Fund is paying out grants of $500 or $1,000. Applicants must be a working journalist or employed by a journalism-support organization, be based in the U.S., and be requesting support for domestic travel. Note that the PLAC Fund is not intended to support travel to conferences; the intent is to support in-person peer-to-peer learning efforts. (For more info and to read our FAQs, visit this page.)

Thanks to our judges

Before we tell you about our second round of award winners (you can read about the first round of winners here), we want to thank our panel of outside judges for the second three months of the Peer Fund: Rebecca Landsberry, Andrè Natta, and Pavni Mittal.

Peer Fund judges, from left, Rebecca Landsberry, Andre Natta, Pavni Mittal.

The Peer Fund’s scoring criteria is based on a weighted system that gives preference to journalists of color, women and those who identify as low-income or from other underrepresented groups. Our judges score each applicant on three subjective criteria related to how well the applicant explained the purpose of the trip, the applicant’s plan to share what they learn and the overall strength of the application.

  • Rebecca Landsberry is the executive director of the Native American Journalists Association, which advocates for accurate representations of Indigenous people in media and press freedom throughout Indian Country. She is a former tribal media editor for the Muscogee Nation News and served as vice president of the Mvskoke Media Editorial Board, where she was responsible for oversight of the independent tribal agency from 2015–2018. She was a recipient of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s “Native American 40 Under 40” award in 2018. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma where she studied public relations and Native American studies at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Strategic Communication. She is an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and is based in Los Angeles with deep ties to her tribe and home in Oklahoma.
  • Andre Natta is editor for the Resolve Philadelphia reporting collaborative’s Broke in Philly project. Before Resolve, he was with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, where he was the Editorial Director for the Lenfest Local Lab. In 2018 he was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow, during which he focused on accessibility for local and regional journalism. Before joining Lenfest, Natta was a Digital Media Producer for WBHM, the local NPR affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, for two years. He also founded The Terminal, a local news outlet for Birmingham, which he operated for 10 years.
  • Pavni Mittal is a web producer and contributor at PBS NewsHour Weekend covering national and international affairs. She has more than seven years of journalism experience in India and the U.S., and holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

And the award recipients are …

Our second round of individual award winners in June, July, and August included:

Demi Vaughn is a senior at Ball State University who will graduate in December of 2019. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in sociology. She served as the public relations chairwoman and now serves as president of the National Association of Black Journalists chapter at Ball State University. She served as the Indianapolis Star’s ‘Our Children Fellow’ in 2019. Demi’s byline has been seen in the Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Recorder, Indiana Minority Business Magazine, and Black Press USA. Demi chose to visit City Bureau to learn more about collaboration, and inclusiveness and how to make a positive impact through storytelling.

Simon Galperin is the director of the Community Info Coop, an organization that equips people with the information and tools they need to design and sustain new forms of public media. He is also the customer success lead at GroundSource, an SMS engagement platform and loyalty consultancy, where he helps news and civic organizations design community engagement campaigns and products. Simon chose to visit City Bureau to learn about the internal processes that power the organization and to learn about resources they rely on to design their programs.

Sonya Green is an Engagement Reporter at the Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University in Macon, GA. Green previously served at 91.3 KBCS Seattle as the Interim Assistant General Manager, News Director and the inside collaborator for Localore: Finding America. Sonya left her position at 91.3 KBCS after being selected to the Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan. While at the fellowship, Sonya researched how language, attitudes, and approaches in journalism narratives can perpetuate stereotypes about race, class and identity. Sonya applied to receive funding to visit City Bureau because she felt that spending time with City Bureau could make a huge impact on how she does her job at the Center for Collaborative Journalism. She wants to provide better tools and find ways to develop buy-in among the partners she works with and to figure out better ways to navigate necessary discussions about power and the redistribution of it between journalists and those they serve.

Peer Fund grantees arrive at City Bureau for a Share + Learn event in Chicago.

Lisa Snowden-McCray is the editor of Baltimore Beat, an independent news outlet in Baltimore City. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and Essence Magazine, among other places. Snowden-McCray chose to visit City Bureau because she is looking for ways for her news organization, Baltimore Beat, to be more active in the community, and to better educate and communicate so some of Baltimore’s deeply entrenched problems can be solved. To that end, she hopes to put on a public newsroom, similar to the ones that City Bureau does.

Rosalie Murphy is the editor-in-chief of The Devil Strip, a community news organization based in her hometown of Akron, Ohio. The Devil Strip team are developing a pilot version of a neighborhood-based fellowship program that is inspired by City Bureau’s work, in which residents of a specific neighborhood would participate in a 10-week paid training program and produce a special issue of the magazine. By visiting City Bureau she hopes to understand more about how they operate their programs on a day-to-day basis, so that Devil Strip can recruit a strong and diverse class of fellows, design a robust curriculum, and manage the program as effectively as possible.

Venice Buhain is the editorial director of The Seattle Globalist, a nonprofit news organization that covers communities of color and immigrant communities, and trains and mentors emerging journalists from communities underrepresented in media. Venice is an online and print journalist whose work has appeared on TVW News, AOL/Patch, The Olympian and other news organizations. Venice has covered diversity, education, politics and state and local issues. She served as the Seattle chapter president of the Asian American Journalists Association and has taught journalism classes at the University of Washington and at Seattle University. The Seattle Globalist is planning a series of community events inspired by what they have heard about City Bureau’s Public Newsroom project. She applied to visit and talk with City Bureau to see what has worked for them, and perhaps learn more about the logistics and outcomes of such news engagement events.

Kara Meyberg Guzman is the co-founder and executive producer of Santa Cruz Local, a local news podcast and website serving Santa Cruz County in California. Before co-founding the company in February, Kara was the managing editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the county’s newspaper of record. She was the first woman and first person of color to hold the newspaper’s top editor position in its 161-year history. Prior to that, she covered transportation, government, environment and education as a reporter and oversaw the Sentinel’s website as the digital manager. Meyberg Guzman applied to visit the The Solutions Journalism Summit to learn best practices in reporting, editing, and engagement as it relates to solutions journalism. Santa Cruz Local intends to look at how other cities and counties are tackling the same problems, such as housing and homelessness.

Susan Carroll joined the Houston Chronicle in 2006 and works as an investigative/projects reporter. She was part of the team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for coverage of Hurricane Harvey and has won state and national awards. Carroll’s stories have prompted changes in federal policy and state law. She previously covered the U.S.- Mexico border for the Arizona Republic and the Tucson Citizen. Carroll will visit the The Raleigh News & Observer newsroom to spend a day discussing project stories with N&O reporters and editors. She plans to make a general presentation to the staff about her work as a longtime projects reporter, focusing on the development of story ideas, interviewing techniques, time management, staying focused, tips for editors and more. This one-day session was suggested by the N&O managing editor as a way to energize the staff and refocus on substantial journalism.

Damon Scott is a multimedia journalist at the Seminole Tribune, a division of the Seminole Tribe of Florida in Hollywood. At the Tribune, he writes about issues affecting Native Americans both in the state and across Indian Country. Prior to moving to Florida in 2017, he was a reporter and editor for digital and print publications in his home state of New Mexico. He has worked in virtually every aspect of the media industry, including in radio, photography, and as a freelance writer, reporter, copy editor and book editor. His interest in writing about criminal justice issues in the U.S. and abroad has increased substantially in recent years. Specifically the plight of missing and murdered Native American women and girls. Scott will use his Peer Fund grant to visit and collaborate with the Marshall Project.

Yuri Nagano is a Tech Reporting Fellow for the San Francisco Public Press. She has been a reporter, producer and editor in print and broadcast for news organizations including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, the Associated Press, Bloomberg BNA, The Economist, KQED and Public Radio International. She started her career as a staff producer for Japan’s public broadcasting network NHK, where she won awards for her TV programs. She has served as a board member for the Asia chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association since 2010. Yuri applied for funding to connect with her mentor Sharon Chan, the incoming VP of Philanthropy for the New York Times.

More ‘Share + Learn’ events planned

As part of the Peer Fund program, we are also hosting peer-to-peer learning events with news entities who we knew would be popular targets. That way, instead of many people all contacting a single newsroom and asking for time to meet, we’d do it in a group.

Several of our grantees, as you saw above, took us up on this offer! Use this link or the button below to apply for a grant if you need it.

Joe Amditis is the associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. Contact him at or on Twitter at @jsamditis.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit



Joe Amditis
Center for Cooperative Media

Associate director of products + events, Center for Cooperative Media; host + producer, WTF Just Happened Today podcast.