In February 2023, Report for America published its 2022 Update: Community News Funds report. It follows the report released last year that identified a major new trend, the creation of “Community News Funds,” and outlines how the funds can be created.
The strategy involves community foundations working with local news leaders to create a single, permanent fund that draws upon donations from multiple sources, to support local news for years to come.
The original report offered case studies reflecting how community news funds are already making a difference. Seven communities raised $15 million over three years with variations of this model.
Report for America’s local sustainability team interviewed more than 30 philanthropic and newsroom leaders to develop its findings. Featured communities included Traverse City, Mich., Lancaster, Pa., Fresno, Calif., Lexington, Ky., New Haven, Conn., Rappahannock, Va., Seattle, Fauquier County, Va. and statewide efforts in Pennsylvania and California.
The report also highlights challenges to consider. Many foundations have bylaws or practices that direct their funds exclusively to nonprofits. In some communities, where for-profit news organizations are the only providers of local news, funders will need to become more flexible, allowing for a greater diversity of business models.
Newsrooms, meanwhile, should expect funders to hold them to certain standards of quality and impact, while still maintaining complete editorial independence. For-profit newsrooms will eventually need to create a development staff position to partner with community philanthropy leaders.
Though this will be a shift in strategy, Report for America believes community news funds are the best path forward for communities in danger of losing their local news coverage.