70 million Americans live in a county without a newspaperaccording to a 2022 report cited in this Washington Post editorial board editorial”
Whose fault is it ? Internet, mainly. While deep-pocketed advertisers once relied on newspapers to reach their customers, they turned to audience targeting capabilities of Facebook or Google. Web-based marketplaces have also siphoned off newspapers’ once-large revenues from classified ads.
But the Post highlights a new positive development: “a big pile of money“.
In an initiative announced this month, 22 donor organizations, including the Knight Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, are teaming up to provide more than $500 million to boost local news over five years: a company called Press Forward… The injection of more than half a billion dollars will certainly contribute to the search for a sustainable and replicable economic model.
The even more important imperative, however, is to elevate local news on the philanthropic food chain so that national and local funders prioritize this crucial American institution. Failure on this front puts more pressure on public policy solutions, and government activism does not mix well with independent journalism…
One of the objectives of Press Forward is therefore to develop the infrastructure”legal support for membership programs” — which local news providers rely on to deliver their product. Jim Brady, vice president of journalism at the Knight Foundation, says it’s easier than ever for news entrepreneurs to launch a local site because they can connect to existing technologies developed by their predecessors – and there is still development work to be funded on this front.
So where to go from here? Local philanthropic interests across the country could take a cue from Press Forward’s partners and invest in local news organizations.