One year after Report for America released Community News Funds: Local foundations lead the way with a pivotal new strategy for community journalism, its local sustainability team revisited the seven communities profiled in the original study. The results of their work, trends in collaborative philanthropic work for local journalism, and a call to action are outlined in the recently-released 2022 Community News Funds Update.
“We took some time to look back, listen, and then chart a path forward for how Report for America can support Community News Funds,” said Todd Franko, director of Local Sustainability at Report for America.
Community News Funds (CNFs) are created when newsrooms and funders unite to create a fund that benefits the local news ecosystem. Last year, the overall amount raised for the seven CNF communities was $6,125,102, with an average CNF raise of $875,015. What is generating this kind of support for collaborative philanthropic work and sustained giving? The proof is in the product: good stewardship and a strong connection to the community.
In the report, the established Community News Funds, like in Seattle, are embedded into the philanthropic social fabric of their city. Kristin Dizon and Kati Erwert of the Seattle Times shared, “After a decade of building our community-funded initiatives, we are grateful to see this work rapidly growing in local journalism. The partnership, ideas, and shared enthusiasm for this area is energizing. It’s gratifying to see success growing exponentially around the country.”
Some of the newer CNFs, like Lancaster County’s Local Journalism Fund, are establishing funding streams and working on creating long-term funding.
“I think we probably exemplify the evolution of a new organization. There’s great excitement and passion the first year, ‘Oh, everything’s new. Everything’s different.’ In the second year, you start to develop some real plans. We’re really slogging through implementation now. It’s not quite as exciting as it was the first year. So keeping everybody engaged and committed is harder because it’s not quite as exciting as it was at first. The hard work is really ahead of us. We’ve taken care of all the low-hanging fruit, and now it kind of comes down to the next level of development for us,” said Susan Eckert from the Lancaster County Local Journalism Fund.
What will make CNFs sustainable? The Community News Fund leaders were unanimous in their desire for philanthropic support for building fund development capacity for CNFs. Dave Mengebier, president and CEO of Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, had this to say: “Someone needs to take ownership of the process; someone who can write grants, plan, and host events, and meet with prospective donors.”
2023 is set to be a formative year for CNF work. Report for America is working on three projects to build on what it’s heard in the field and to catalyze the CNF movement. The projects are a Community News Fund workshop for 15 CNF leaders from across the country; a Community News Fund Toolkit that will build off of best practices and resources generated from the workshop; and, in collaboration with Mapping Black California, a CNF map that will outline where CNFs are across the country.
Franko encourages local newsrooms and philanthropic leaders to “join the CNF movement. Participate in Report for America programming, and reach out to us to brainstorm plans for creating a CNF or expanding your current efforts. We encourage you to take a few minutes to complete this survey and let us know what you are up to. Let’s get CNFs on the map and see how CNFs can effect change in local news ecosystems.”
If you are interested in learning more about Community News Funds and/or getting involved, please fill out this short survey.
About Report for America
Report for America is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities across the United States and its territories. By creating a new, sustainable model for journalism, Report for America provides people with the information they need to improve their communities, hold powerful institutions accountable, and restore trust in the media. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.