About The Banyan Project
The Banyan Project aims to strengthen democracy by helping seed community-scale Web journalism cooperatives in underserved communities, then supporting them so they can thrive and best serve the broad public of everyday citizens while engaging their civic energy.
Banyan will provide mentorship and educational, technical and administrative tools that will help new co-ops get started with a minimum of risk. Banyan will only support sites that agree to uphold the Banyan value proposition—to provide journalism that will be relevant to readers’ lives, respectful of them as people, and worthy of their trust—and to meet standards that Banyan sets. The germination of the model that Banyan advocates and supports is taking shape in Haverhill, Mass., where a pilot co-op is being formed.
Banyan’s seed was planted more than a decade ago in conversations among founder Tom Stites and friends who share a concern about the future of journalism. The conversation widened as a result of Stites’s keynote address at the 2006 Media Giraffe conference on journalism’s future, which drew more than 200 news executives, academics, researchers and bloggers. His speech, Is Media Performance Democracy’s Critical Issue?, drew more than 30,000 page views on the Web. Two years later Stites pulled together the first members of Banyan’s advisory board and set up a wiki so people could see the concept as it unfolded. The concept won a Game Changer award at the 2010 We Media conference, and Stites was named a 2010-11 fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, where he shaped the Banyan model and gained expert counsel from the community of fellows and from law and business professors. In 2012 a committee of community leaders in Haverhill came together to begin the process of forming the nation’s first online community news co-op, using the Banyan model.
Dedidcated Haverhill volunteers have contended with the myriad learning curves a new model presents, and in the process have yielded learnings that have produced comprehensive and meticulous business plans both for a typical community news co-op and for Banyan’s national endeavour.
Banyan is now pursuing multiyear funding to staff up and meet democracy’s needs by launching at least 20 news co-ops over three years.
The Banyan Board of Advisors has grown to include 31 senior journalists, academics, web developers, sociologists and researchers, business and financial strategists, and advocates for strengthening democracy. Joining founder Stites as directors of Banyan Project Inc. are six advisory board members: Angus Durocher, Arthur Henshaw, Paul Kritzer, Dan Gillmor, Newell Lessell and Lauren Walters.