Q&A with Molly de Aguiar

May 19, 2014

This is the third installment of our new series featuring Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation staff here on the Dodge Blog. We’re going to check in with what they’re learning and thinking about as they visit with nonprofits around the state, and we’ll pepper them with a few fun questions, too. We welcome your feedback!

Today we talked to Molly de Aguiar, Program Director, Media.

Is there something coming up that you’re particularly excited about?

Yes! Dodge was recently awarded a two-year, $2 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to continue our work strengthening and expanding the emerging network of local news and information organizations throughout New Jersey.

Our challenge ahead is to develop viable revenue models – how do we help news organizations (both for profit and nonprofit) achieve financial sustainability, especially when the media landscape is changing so dramatically? We also plan to fill gaps in community information needs around the state by launching new sites and providing them with seed grants, training and other resources we’ve already helped establish with our partner Montclair State University’s (MSU) Center for Cooperative Media and its NJ News Commons initiative.

Expanding and improving the New Jersey news ecosystem is a big puzzle with a lot of different pieces. We will be experimenting with a number of ideas around events and membership models as well as ad networks, new technologies and creative community engagement initiatives. And when I say “we,” I’m excited to be collaborating closely with Josh Stearns, who is our new Director of Journalism & Sustainability at Dodge. Together, we will be tackling this work over the next couple of years.

Do you have any new partnerships or collaborations?

We have many partners in this effort and always welcome new ones. I just mentioned the Center for Cooperative Media and the NJ News Commons at Montclair State. We will continue to collaborate with them and support their efforts to provide a robust array of training and services while also encouraging content and resource sharing among local news sites. We are also working with CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism and its Center for Community and Ethnic Media, which, like MSU, has very effectively established itself as a hub of vital services, trainings and professional resources for community and ethnic media in New York City.

We also have a number of philanthropic partners, such as the Knight Foundation, the Community Foundation of New Jersey, the Wyncote Foundation and others which recognize the importance of this work to the health of our communities and the health of our democratic process.

How do you nurture creativity in your job and in your life?

I couldn’t work at a job that didn’t offer me a substantial creative outlet and opportunities to brainstorm and implement new ideas. Philanthropy is a tremendously creative field – we are constantly thinking about how to connect people, ideas and resources.

Aside from directing Dodge’s media grants, the two most rewarding projects (so far!) I worked on include the overhaul of the Dodge website and the launch of the Jersey Give Back Guide, both of which were incredibly fun and challenging.

Outside of work, I contribute to a friend’s blog every couple of weeks, which forces me to seek out new ideas for things to write about. I also get a lot of creative energy and ideas from Pinterest and Instagram.

What books, e-books and magazines are on your (real or virtual) nightstand?

I have two books I’m reading right now: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel (by Mohsin Hamid) and The Lowland (by Jhumpa Lahiri) – the former is on my Kindle, and the latter is a hard cover. I also recently read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. I would read anything Junot Diaz writes.

What are some of your hobbies or favorite things to do outside work?

When the weather is warm enough, I love to spend time outside with my family – particularly hiking (the Delaware Water Gap, Duke Farms and Willowwood Arboretum are favorite NJ places) and canoeing, which we usually do on the D&R Canal. I’m pretty passionate about traveling to new places too, and I’m always up for a good road trip.

What are you some of your favorite media sites/resources?

Twitter is my go-to source. It helps keep me up to date on the work of Dodge’s media grantees, including ProPublica, NJ Spotlight, New Jersey Public Radio, NewsWorks, WFMU and others, while also being an endless supply of all kinds of fascinating and useful information. (If you’re on twitter, say hello – I’m at @grdodgemedia.) I also regularly read the Knight Foundation and the Nieman Journalism Lab blogs.

In the non-news category, I read a ton of other blogs – most of them are design or creative placemaking or lifestyle blogs. And, I’m currently catching up on episodes of 99% Invisible, which is a podcast on the design and architecture all around us, and how it intersects with our lives in ways we often don’t notice. I highly recommend it.

Next up: In June, learn more about Margaret Waldock, Dodge’s Environment Program Director