The University of New Orleans (UNO) and its NPR affiliate station, WWNO-FM, have called a press conference for Friday morning for the announcement of "a major new initiative." The initiative is NewOrleansReporter.org, the fledgling newsroom being put together by Greater New Orleans Inc. president Michael Hecht and Educate Now! head Leslie Jacobs. (The project was previously called both NOLANow.org and NOLA Beat; the neworleansreporter.org domain was registered just yesterday.)
A fundraising letter being circulated this week among New Orleans business leaders says NewOrleansReporter.org "is based on extensive discussions with industry experts, and aims to be a national model for next-wave journalism. TheNewOrleansReporter.org will be hosted by UNO, and will partner with WWNO and National Public Radio (NPR)."
The letter also says NPR is investing $250,000 in kind in the project (though that dollar amount may be an estimate and is subject to change), and "has decided to make New Orleans its 'beta' market to develop a robust online platform for its affiliates nationally."
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. It will be headed by WWNO general manager Paul Maassen.
Fundraising for the newsroom will be done by a new group, "Friends of Quality Reporting" — and the proposal to business leaders promises "Friends of Quality Reporting will be separated from the editorial function by a strict firewall." In addition, the journalism produced by NewOrleansReporter.org will be freely shared with other news sources, "in order to encourage the promulgation of quality news."
The fundraising proposal says NewOrleansReporter.org content "will be available in multiple digital formats, including web, tablet, smart phone, social media and ... email."
Gambit has learned the name of at least one person associated with The Times-Picayune who has been approached about a possible role with the new newsgathering operation.
Reached this afternoon, both UNO spokesman Adam Norris and Hecht declined comment. Jacobs was in a meeting.