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WWNO-FM, NPR to partner with new nonprofit newsroom

  Officials from the University of New Orleans (UNO), WWNO-FM, National Public Radio (NPR) and the New Orleans business community gathered at UNO July 27 to announce a new partnership in the form of a nonprofit newsroom,

NewOrleansReporter.org. "I'm proud to say my university will be on the cutting edge of digital journalism," UNO president Dr. Peter Fos told the crowd.

  The structure will create a new umbrella organization, UNO Public Media, which will encompass both WWNO-FM and WWNO.org's original newsgathering, as well as that of NewOrleansReporter.org. Both will be in partnership with NPR and will be headed by WWNO general manager Paul Maassen.

  Fundraising for the newsroom will be done by a new group, Friends of Quality Reporting, spearheaded by Greater New Orleans Inc. president Michael Hecht and Educate Now! head Leslie Jacobs. A proposal circulating earlier this week among business leaders and potential donors promised "Friends of Quality Reporting will be separated from the editorial function by a strict firewall."

  That earlier proposal had contained figures saying NewOrleansReporter.org would require $6 million in donations and sponsorships to get off the ground with a team of 10 reporters and 10 support staff. At the press conference, Hecht said that figure had been amended to $4.5 million. The original proposal also promised a $250,000 in kind match from NPR, but Kinsey Wilson, NPR's executive vice president and chief content officer, said "We haven't put a specific amount of money into this," adding that the new newsroom would benefit from existing NPR management systems.

  It's WWNO's latest expansion into establishing a larger news presence in New Orleans; earlier in the week, the station announced partnerships with the city's other nonprofit newsroom, The Lens, as well as the local culture website NolaVie.

  "This is not about The Times-Picayune per se," Maassen said, referring to the paper's plan to scale back to three days a week (plus special Monday New Orleans Saints sections) in the fall. Nevertheless, Gambit has learned that at least one familiar T-P name has been contacted about a possible role as a news editor.

  On July 23, WWNO-FM dumped its longtime top-40 classical music format and began running news-oriented shows that are familiar to NPR listeners in other cities. NewOrleansReporter.org is scheduled to launch by year's end, further upending the New Orleans media world. — Kevin Allman

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