Wichita Info Challenge leads to three new TNC members

Wichita Info Challenge leads to three new TNC members

We’re excited to announce our newest Tiny News members out of Wichita, thanks to an innovative collaboration with the Wichita Foundation and its chief strategy officer Courtney Bengtson. The foundation opened up the application process last year for its first Wichita Info Challenge to help jumpstart three local information startups with $30,000 in funding and two years of membership to TNC. Here are the three selected startups and newest TNC members:

We recently had a chance to catch up with Courtney Bengtson at the Wichita Foundation to ask her more about the Info Challenge and plans for the future.

How did the Info Challenge come about?

Courtney Bengtson: As part of our strategic initiative focus areas, the Wichita Foundation (WF) wanted to amplify local voices to deliver vital information to our communities and contribute to Wichita’s local news ecosystem. It started by asking ourselves, ‘How can we create a more inclusive news landscape?’

We recalled learning about the Tiny News Collective previously and wondered how it might look to launch a local competition with the same national concept. After some brainstorming, we partnered with Tiny News to launch a call for ideas on ways to enhance information in our city. Known as the Info Challenge, the initiative launched to identify and jumpstart three local information concepts. Each news outlet receives a $30,000 gift from Press Forward Wichita at WF and a TNC membership to fuel their operations.

Courtney Bengtson
Courtney Bengtson

Why did you want to partner with TNC on this initiative?

Bengtson: TNC supports the development of collaborative community newsrooms, and the team’s local news expertise made perfect sense coupled with their national scope. TNC’s involvement provides valuable insights and resources to help kickstart the selected independent news ventures in Wichita.

What was the response you received, both from applicants and the community?

Bengtson: We were astounded to receive 22 applications. One of the biggest hurdles to creating a news outlet is the cost and resources. Such a high desire of people wanting to tap into these resources to flex their storytelling muscles gives us hope for the future of local news. The Challenge even involved community outreach support from Mamarazzi Communications – founded by Ti’Juana Hardwell, a local entrepreneur and Wichita advocate – and input from an advisory committee of seven Wichita residents.

The community welcomed the initiative as it aimed to address the need for more inclusive and accessible news coverage. We continue to receive feedback locally through positive comments and eagerness to support these newsrooms. To keep people updated, we are highlighting updates on the journey of each newsroom about every three months.

🚀 Are you ready to start a news organization in your community? Apply to join the founders in the Tiny News Collective! We have a rolling application process.

Membership in the Tiny News Collective is a supportive, catalyzing experience for founders getting their business off the ground. You will be connected with and supported by industry experts, TNC partners and alumni, and other founders who are facing similar challenges and trying to answer similar questions.

What do you think about the selected publishers and how they might change the information ecosystem in Wichita?

Bengtson: Each of the three information outlets represent a diverse audience, variety of mediums and is at a different stage in development. Their independent news ventures, supported by Wichita Foundation and TNC, are already introducing new perspectives and increasing the diversity of voices in the local news landscape.

Any thoughts on doing another Info Challenge in the future?

Bengtson: Based on the overwhelming amount of applications we received in the first round, we may consider doing another Info Challenge in the future. Continuing to support and invest in local news and information will continue to be part of the Wichita Foundation’s ongoing efforts to serve the community and foster a more informed society. 

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