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Laura Arnold, Richard Kinder, and more pump $20M into Houston nonprofit news outlet

Laura Arnold (pictured with husband John) is a big backer of the project. ArnoldVentures.com

Houston will soon have a new source for independent and community-minded journalism, thanks to a $20 million infusion by a group of local nonprofits.

Houston Endowment, the Kinder Foundation, and Arnold Ventures announced the launch of an independent Houston nonprofit news operation in Houston that promises to be one of the largest in the country, according to a press release.

The operation is slated to launch in late 2022 or early 2023 on multiple platforms, the new nonprofit news organization will “elevate the voices of Houstonians and address the needs of the community” as identified in the American Journalism Project’s extensive research.

Specifically, this project was cultivated after a two-year research effort, led by the American Journalism Project. The organization relied on focus groups, community listening sessions, and surveys conducted in four different languages, as well as content analyses of existing coverage to examine local information gaps and news needs.

Notably, this new operation will be free to readers as well as other news organizations. Name, news coverage strategies, and office location will be determined by its new leadership, the announcement notes.

The organization is described as being charged with striving to be the center of conversation about Houston’s critical issues, bridge communities, and foster community engagement while building a vibrant and active following, a release adds.

An introductory web page at localnewsforhouston.org has been created; currently applications for CEO and editor-in-chief are being accepted there.

A search committee for staffing includes:

  • Ann Stern, President & CEO, Houston Endowment
  • Dr. Anne Chao, Manager of the Houston Asian American Archive, Rice University
  • Armando Perez, Executive Vice President, H-E-B Houston, chairman, United Way Greater Houston
  • Jeff Cohen, Executive Vice President, Arnold Ventures
  • Reginald DesRosches, Howard R. Hughes Provost and President-Elect, Rice University
  • Rich Kinder, chairman, Kinder Foundation, and Executive Chairman, Kinder Morgan Inc.

“Commercial news organizations across the United States have rapidly declined in recent years, a trend that directly undermines the foundations of American democracy,” said Laura Arnold, co-founder and co-chair of Arnold Ventures, in a statement. “A free press is essential, and until the industry finds its footing, philanthropy must do its part to help strengthen and safeguard the Fourth Estate. We have long invested in nonprofit journalism, and we are honored to support the establishment of a robust newsroom endeavor in our hometown.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Houston-based Melax Tech has developed multiple Natural language processing tools that are used by more than 650 health care and life science organizations. Photo via MelaxTech.com

Melax Tech Partners, a leader in natural language technology processing, announced a new partnership with the University of California at Irvine that will help researchers derive insights from the UCI Health Data Science Platform’s electronic health records system and improve patient care.

Melax will implement its signature text annotation tool LANN to pull information from clinical notes, and its CLAMP product to develop natural language processing customizations through the use of AI, according to a statement from the company.

“There has been a strong desire among UCI researchers to have the capability to analyze free-text clinical narrative data using cutting-edge NLP technologies," Kai Zheng, chief research information officer at UCI Health Affairs, says in a statement. "We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with Melax Tech to deploy their AI-driven annotation and analytics tools to help our researchers advance their research agenda by leveraging the vast amount of free-text data that our health system has accumulated in the past two decades.”

Natural language processing, or NLP, allows organizations and healthcare groups to sift through and analyze massive amounts of data at a rapid rate through the use of machine learning and AI. Houston-based Melax Tech, founded in 2017, has developed multiple NLP tools that are used by more than 650 health care and life science organizations, according to its website.

In addition to the recent partnership with UC Irvine, Melax has also recently partnered with Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Western Pennsylvania on similar clinical projects.

Melax has also used its platforms to pull vital information from datasets relating to COVID-19, in both medical and social settings.

In March 2022, it was awarded a Phase 1 NIH Award, valued at $300,000, to develop informatics tools based on COVID-19 datasets with the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UC San Diego. The tool aims to help researchers better understand vast amounts of virus-related data and connect findings with other similar results.

In August, Melax also received another $300,000 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop NLP-based algorithms that will "model, extract and synthesize vaccine misinformation from multiple popular social media sources," according to a statement. Melax will also develop a visualization that presents its findings on the misinformation into a compressible format.

"This is a very real topic affecting culture at present," Andre Pontin, CEO at Melax Tech, says in a statement. "And shows that we as a collective business and group of experts continue to be on the cutting-edge of science in the NLP and AI domain."

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