Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Photo: Indian Country Today.
National Correspondent Mary Annette Pember, right, reports for Indian Country Today.

One of the things that Russia’s war in Ukraine has clarified is that good journalism is vital to democracy. Most people in Russia right now have access only to propaganda, which is why they have no idea what’s going on in Ukraine. In a tapped phone call, the mother of at least one Russian soldier refused to believe her son’s eye-witness account.

The US has its own threats to journalism — misinformation on social media, certainly, but also outlet consolidation. The loss of local papers to big chains, especially in rural areas, is increasingly recognized as dangerous.

Today’s story is about how nonprofit angels are helping local reporting hang on by the skin of its teeth.

Ben Morse writes at Current, “Water is an important issue to Joe Wertz. As climate and environment editor at Colorado Public Radio, he’s overseen a lot of reporting on water in the state and its scientific and political aspects. …

“CPR will be able to dive deeper into that complexity thanks to a new collaboration with the Institute for Nonprofit News. INN announced in November that it will launch a Rural News Network this year focusing on issues of concern to rural Americans, particularly communities of color. …

“Said Jonathan Kealing, chief network officer for INN, ‘It allows us to really put the equity lens on this storytelling thread throughout the project.’

“INN began planning the project in 2020 in response to interest from its members, Kealing said. The institute had previously convened rural news collaborations, and Kealing wanted to expand on that work.

“ ‘The success we had in previous coverage of rural issues, rural education, rural health care, and those stories really had an impact in their communities and really helped the newsrooms meet their mission of serving and informing their communities,’ he said.

“INN reached out to its 350 member organizations, and two — Daily Yonder in Whitesburg, Ky., and Investigative Midwest in Champaign, Ill. — expressed interest in leading and shaping the new project. The outlets, which specialize in rural and agricultural coverage, will provide RNN organizations with deep source networks and access to local community data, said Daily Yonder Editor Tim Marema.  

“Stories from the first pilot series, ‘Tapped Out: Power and water justice in the rural West,’ began coming out in November, funded by a $30,000 grant from the Water Foundation that will be divided among participating organizations. …

“The goal for the collaboration is to reach a bigger audience, said INN Member Collaborations Editor Bridget Thoreson. … ‘We’re taking work that’s already being done and connecting it to get this force multiplier effect, where it’s really able to reach and represent more people,’ Thoreson said. …

‘The real strength of radio is just its incredible reach across broad geographic areas.’ …

“In December, CPR published an article about how water shortages and policies governing the Colorado River affect tribal communities, who were excluded from negotiations over the river in 1922. The piece aired on CPR, Science Friday republished the article, and host Ira Flato interviewed CPR climate/environment reporter Michael Elizabeth Sakas Dec. 10.

“Another public radio station, KOSU in Stillwater, Okla., is participating in the second pilot program, which will cover economic issues within tribal communities. The pilot will feature 10 news organizations. … Each organization will cover stories in its region. Indian Country Today, leader of the series and an INN member, will publish a story about tribal economics across rural America. …

“The station is collaborating with tribal publications Mvskoke Media and Osage News on a story about Native-owned businesses, and KOSU created a survey asking Oklahomans which tribal businesses it should cover. …

“Community-driven reporting is an integral part of the tribal economics project, said Dianna Hunt, a senior editor at Indian Country Today who will lead the tribal economics project with Thoreson. …

“ ‘The first phase of the project is listening,’ Hunt said. ‘That part will kick off the project, and then the reporting will follow from the information that they get from their individual communities.’

“Hunt said that engagement with rural Americans is crucial because local communities will pick the stories that make up the pilot. Building trust is key, she added, because residents in rural and tribal communities lack trust in journalists due to negative stereotyping and parachute reporting by the national media.”

More at Current, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Capital Canvas Prints.
Salt Lake City, Utah.

Our local paper is owned by a national chain, Gannett, that cares nothing about our town. It prints generic articles from national outlets like USA Today or towns in other parts of New England and doesn’t get around to printing the library’s schedule or candidate letters until the events are over. Once in a while, it covers a controversial meeting or interviews a school coach — exceptions that prove the rule.

So I was not surprised to learn that a group of prominent citizens, including an experienced journalist, is working to establish a nonprofit competitor here. This is not unheard of. Today’s article from NiemanLab describes one successful effort to save local journalism, only in this case, the nonprofit board built on an established newspaper.

As Sarah Scire wrote last November, “The Salt Lake Tribune has plenty to celebrate in 2021. The first (and so far only) major newspaper to become a nonprofit is financially sustainable and, after years of layoffs and cuts, is growing its newsroom. Executive editor Lauren Gustus announced the news in a note to readers in which the relief of escaping hedge fund ownership was palpable.

“ ‘We celebrate 150 years this year and we are healthy,’ Gustus wrote. ‘We are sustainable in 2021, and we have no plans to return to a previously precarious position.’

“It’s been quite the turnaround. Utah’s largest newspaper escaped the clutches of the hedge fund Alden Global Capital in 2016 only to see its local owner, Paul Huntsman, lay off a third of staff two years later in the face of plunging ad revenue. In 2019, the Tribune made history as the first daily newspaper to become a nonprofit. And then amid the height of the pandemic last year, the Tribune ended a 149-year run of printing a daily newspaper and a 68-year-old joint partnership with the Deseret News. …

Gustus pointed out that hundreds of American newspapers are owned by financial institutions with a well-deserved reputation for making every newspaper they touch worse by gutting newsrooms, selling off assets, and jacking up subscription prices for readers.

“Gustus herself joined the Tribune from McClatchy (owned by a hedge fund) and spent years at Gannett (once managed by one hedge fund, and now deeply in debt to a different one). …

“The Salt Lake Tribune’s transition to nonprofit status has been closely watched in the news industry. Does that put additional pressure on Gustus and the rest of the Tribune team? ‘The opportunity for us to prove that this can work is significant and so is the responsibility,’ she said.

“The Tribune grew its newsroom 23% in the last year and will add new reporting roles focused on education, business, solutions journalism, food, and culture in 2022. Gustus also expects to follow the Utah News Collaborative (launched in April to make the Tribune’s reporting available to any news organization in the state) with more multi-newsroom projects centered on saving the Great Salt Lake and the centenary of the Colorado River Compact.

“Other changes include introducing six weeks of paid parental leave and a 401(k) match for employees. In response to readers who said they missed the ‘daily drumbeat‘ amid the weekend edition’s in-depth reporting, the newsroom will publish an e-edition to accompany the Sunday paper. They’re also introducing a second printed edition — delivered by mail, rather than carriers — on Wednesdays at no additional cost to subscribers.

“The Salt Lake Tribune draws revenue chiefly from subscriptions, donations, and advertising. … Subscribers pay for a digital subscription ($80/year), while ‘supporting subscribers’ ($150/year) add a donation on top. In the donations category, members of The First Amendment Society pledge to donate at least $1,000/year for three years while major donors provide one-off gifts and grants.

“The Tribune has about 6,500 supporting subscribers, more than 50 members of its First Amendment Society, and dozens of major donors. (In a bid for transparency, The Tribune forbids donations over $5,000 to be anonymous. You can see the full list here.) Gustus stressed that consistency of support is invaluable.

“ ‘We are so grateful to them [supporting subscribers] because it enables us to plan.’ …

“Gustus says that being ‘relatively lean’ — the newsroom currently stands around 33 reporters, with a handful of open positions — sometimes lends itself to some unusual experiments. The Salt Lake Tribune’s NBA beat writer, Andy Larsen, told his sizable Twitter following he wanted to get 500 new subscribers for the Tribune by the end of the year.

“Larsen had to clarify that this was his own idea and not something his bosses were making him do. … Roughly 24 hours after his first tweet, the thread had earned the Tribune 82 new subscribers. In November, roughly halfway through the self-assigned challenge, Larsen said that number had grown to 294 new subscribers.

“ ‘Andy is a gift to Utah,’ Gustus said, noting that Larsen wrote a popular column that dug into Covid data in the state when professional basketball ground to a halt. ‘He has really taken his curiosity and run with it.’

“Looking ahead to 2022, Gustus was brimming with ideas for the newly-enlarged newsroom. The Tribune will continue to investigate the dark history of Indigenous boarding schools in the state, start a conversation about the long-term impacts of children being educated during the pandemic, address water resource issues, and make sure readers have the information they need to vote in November elections.

“Gustus says The Salt Lake Tribune will also be wrestling with what it means to be a nonprofit news organization, beyond its official 501(c)(3) tax status.

“ ‘2021 has been all about finding stability for the Tribune,’ Gustus said. ‘We are so happy to say we’ve arrived in that spot and we don’t want to go back to where we were.’ “

More at NiemanLab, here, and at the newspaper’s website, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Folio.
Are newspapers really dead? Maybe it’s just taking a while to find new ways to support them.

As consumers of the news and traditional advertisers increasingly go online, there has been understandable handwringing about how local reporting and investigative journalism is to survive.

Sarah Scire writes for Nieman Lab about a philanthropic model.

The Guardian — through its U.S.-based philanthropic arm theguardian.org — raised $9 million between April 2020 and April 2021. Rachel White, who has been president of theguardian.org since its founding in 2016, said [donations for news organizations continued].

“New multi-year reporting projects were funded and launched, too. Humanity United, which has funded reporting on modern day slavery and labor exploitation with a pair of two-year $800,000 grants, expanded its support in 2021 with a $1.5 million grant for a series on human rights around the world. … In another example, Open Society Foundations, which has funded reporting on gender inequality in the U.S. at the Guardian in the past, reupped its contributions to fund work on climate justice and the intersection of inequality and Covid-19. Other grants have boosted the climate journalism … and made a U.S. voting rights project possible.

“With bleak-and-getting-bleaker advertising figures, we’ve seen a number of new newsrooms choose to go the nonprofit route and look to fund their journalism through individual contributions and direct support from foundations and other charitable organizations.

“Philanthropy at the Guardian is a little less straightforward. The news organization, owned by Scott Trust Limited, is not a nonprofit like. … Instead, in 2016, the Guardian formed an independent, U.S.-based charitable organization specifically to find financial support for its journalism. It’s part of a growing trend of U.S. newspapers seeking philanthropic support; the same year, the New York Times launched its own philanthropic arm. …

“White, who joined from New America Foundation, says … ‘For a place like the Guardian, we wouldn’t and shouldn’t be seeking the same kind of funding that nonprofit newsrooms split, because we have lots of different revenue streams that support the news organization. [We] really needed to define why and how we would seek philanthropic support.’

“The ‘how’ was relatively straightforward; setting up a 501(c)(3) made it easier for more nonprofits to contribute. The ‘why,’ White says, has been driven entirely by the newsroom.

“ ‘We’re fierce — and always will be — about editorial independence,’ she said. ‘Every one of the ideas that we take to philanthropy comes first from senior editors at the Guardian.’ …

“Every project funded through theguardian.org has a prominently placed badge noting the institution(s) that made the work possible. A gene editing documentary was funded by the U.K.-based Wellcome Trust, for example, while articles in a series on the threats facing public lands in the United States and Canada discloses its support from the Society of Environmental Journalists. The full list of more than 40 grant-supported projects appears on theguardian.org. …

“White is quick to point out that philanthropy is not the primary way the Guardian supports its journalism. Annual revenue for the Guardian was £223.5 million (USD $308 million) in 2020, including digital-driven revenue — now making up 56% of all revenue — at £125.9 million. In contrast, theguardian.org has reliably contributed between $5.1 million and $5.4 million per year. … The philanthropic arm focuses on reporting projects that might be difficult to justify funding while facing budget shortfalls. …

“The organizations and individuals that White works with are, unsurprisingly, very interested in the impact of the journalism they fund. The Guardian has developed a suite of tools and procedures to try and measure who their journalism is reaching — and what effect it has. …

“Looking ahead, White says the newsroom is looking at finding funding for topics like ‘the future of the American worker’ and ‘the long tail of inequality and poverty’ post-pandemic. …

“Toward the end of our conversation, I asked White — who has been working to secure philanthropic support for journalism for nearly six years now — what has surprised her most in her role.

“ ‘I really did believe in 2016 … that everyone would immediately see the role of journalism and philanthropy would rise triumphantly to the challenge and that there would be this outpouring of support. While the market has expanded and this commitment to the idea of supporting journalism has grown, it certainly hasn’t grown at the pace of the crisis for journalism. …

“ ‘I just continue to hope that the philanthropic market will expand to meet the needs of news organizations, because they’re substantial.’ ”

More at Nieman Lab, here.

Read Full Post »

merlin_162547917_954e6b18-5736-43ae-9543-23e4a4360113-jumboPhoto: Chloe Aftel for the New York Times
“If we weren’t covering it, no one would know what’s going on,” said Katherina Sourine, one of
four city and government reporters at the college newspaper, the Michigan Daily.

Local papers are vital to democracy not only for the local people to manage their lives well but because big stories start locally. Moreover, if Twitter gets the news first, misinformation or incomplete information may get a firm grip on the collective consciousness.

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, where local papers have followed the national trend of going out of business, the college newspaper is having to pick up the slack. And it is not the only student newspaper to do so nationwide.

Dan Levin reports at the New York Times, “Municipal committee meetings — the tedious minutiae of Ann Arbor’s local governance — do not tend to draw a crowd. On a recent afternoon, Katherina Sourine was among only a few in attendance.

“But Ms. Sourine, a University of Michigan senior, was there because she had to be. As one of four city and government reporters for Ann Arbor’s sole daily newspaper, she had biked through a steady rain between classes to take notes on the city’s plans for developing a new park. …

“Said Ms. Sourine, 21, who also plays rugby and is taking a full schedule of classes this semester, ‘It’s really hard to take time out of my day, especially when breaking news hits. But a lot of people rely on us to stay informed, not only students, but the people of Ann Arbor.’

“For more than a decade, the Michigan Daily, the university’s student newspaper, has been the only daily paper in town. After the Ann Arbor News shuttered its daily print edition in 2009 — and eventually its website, too — a staff of about 300 student journalists has worked hard to provide incisive coverage about the city’s police, power brokers and policymakers, all while keeping up with school.

“Student journalists across the country have stepped in to help fill a void after more than 2,000 newspapers have closed or merged, leaving more than 1,300 communities without any local news coverage. And several young reporters have broken consequential stories that have prodded powerful institutions into changing policies.

“A high school newspaper in Pittsburg, Kan., forced the resignation of the principal after discovering discrepancies in her résumé. After writing an article about a school employee’s unprofessional conduct charges, high school editors in Burlington, Vt., won a censorship battle against their principal.

“And when the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine resigned abruptly last month, a 20-year-old junior at Arizona State University broke the news in the school’s student newspaper, a scoop that gained international attention. …

“ ‘We’re the largest Arizona-based news-gathering operation in Washington because we’re the only Arizona-based news-gathering operation in Washington,’ said Steve Crane, director of Washington operations at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Despite little training and no university journalism program, the staff of the Michigan Daily has embraced its vital role. Last year, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, it published a lengthy investigation that detailed sexual misconduct allegations against a professor, leading to his early retirement. In 2014, the paper published a major scoop about a sexual assault that the university concealed to protect a football player. …

“The Daily also covers issues that matter to Ann Arbor’s 121,000 residents, such as the inner workings of the municipal government, cuts to the county’s mental health budget, and a police oversight commission that was created last year in response to the shooting death of a black woman and the violent arrest of a black teenager.

‘We’ve been given this mantle of holding the powerful accountable, five nights a week, with no department backing us up,’ said Finntan Storer, 21, the managing editor of the Daily. ‘It’s a huge responsibility.’ …

“Today, the Daily’s closest competitor is MLive.com, a news website owned by Advance Publications that covers the state of Michigan. The company regularly publishes articles about Ann Arbor, including in a twice-weekly print digest branded as the Ann Arbor News, and it employs a staff of local journalists who cover the city’s government, real estate, police and other beats. But some residents said the student paper has often more effectively covered the community.

“Unlike many college newspapers, the Daily has the financial support — in the form of a $4.5 million endowment — to sustain its breadth of reporting, said Neil Chase, the chairman of the university’s student publications board. …

” ‘In a city of 100,000 people, you have to decide if you’re going to cover a City Council meeting, a car crash, or some other local news because you only have a few people to go around,’ he said. But the Daily ‘has so many people, they don’t have to make those tough decisions.’ ” More here.

Read Full Post »

No sooner had I posted yesterday about the NY Times story on how a high school parent’s complaint to the Humans of New York went viral, than I opened a link in twitter that was unexpectedly relevant.

A blog called NewsWhip was showing the real front page of numerous newspapers and then, “using NewsWhip Spike’s publisher view, which breaks out stories by social shares, place of publication and other details,” it showed what each front page would have looked like if the layout had been based on the articles most popular with online readers.

And the lead NY Times article for that day (below) would have been the one I blogged about last night.

If you go to NewsWhip, here, you can see similar reworkings of front pages. Lots of fun. I felt quite reassured that the most popular stories were not all about movie stars or gruesome accidents. When I go to online news, I make a point of refusing to click on those. I don’t want the content generator to keep featuring them, and maybe if no one clicks on junk news, they will stop highlighting it.

 Right, people-powered front page from the NewsWhip blog.

Read Full Post »

Asakiyume writes a blog I enjoy a lot, and this week she had an intriguing post on Jackie Ormes, generally considered the first female African American cartoonist. See examples of work by Ormes at Asakiyume’s blog, here.

According to wikipedia, Ormes (1911 to 1985), “started in journalism as a proofreader for the Pittsburgh Courier, a weekly African American newspaper that came out every Saturday. Her 1937-38 Courier comic strip, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, starring Torchy Brown, was a humorous depiction of a Mississippi teen who found fame and fortune singing and dancing in the Cotton Club.”

The strip waxed and waned as Ormes pursued her many career interests, bur she always returned to Torchy.

“In 1950, the Courier began an eight-page color comics insert, where Ormes re-invented her Torchy character in a new comic strip, Torchy in Heartbeats. This Torchy was a beautiful, independent woman who finds adventure while seeking true love. …  The strip is probably best known for its last episode in 1954, when Torchy and her doctor boyfriend confront racism and environmental pollution. Torchy presented an image of a black woman who, in contrast to the contemporary stereotypical media portrayals, was confident, intelligent, and brave.”

Being a cartoonist seems harder than writing a blog. You not only need to find daily topics that interest you enough to dwell on, but you have to encapsulate them in a piece of art. Asakiyume sometimes illustrates her posts, but art is one thing you won’t find me doing here. (Unless maybe a collage.)

Read Full Post »

Years ago, when we were living near Rochester, New York, it was pointed out to me that poverty in rural areas was often worse than in cities because people were more isolated and there were fewer services. That winter I contacted an outreach coordinator who had put out a call for warm clothing. I offered to drop off some clothes we no longer needed.

The coordinator, an African American, believed deeply that dropping off clothes was not the same as understanding what the need was. She herself had grown up in a family of migrant farm workers and was acquainted with grief. When she was small, I later learned, her family had even been assigned to a chicken coop for their housing.

The coordinator knew a family who needed my clothes, and she thought I should go with her to make the delivery. Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed.

I will never forget the wary, beaten-down look in the eyes of a young woman living with family members in a tumble-down old house. After handing over the donation, the coordinator and I hung around for a brief, awkward chat. I could see that my contribution could not scratch the surface of the family’s need and was mostly for my conscience (which is not a reason to give up on donations, of course).

The main thing that has changed in the America in 30-plus years is that greater percentages of Americans are poor.

That is why some photojournalists, outraged at the lack of serious coverage in the mainstream media and recognizing that a picture is worth a thousand words, have founded an organization to fight poverty called American Poverty. See their recent photos here.

Perhaps you know the work of Walker Evans and James Agee in the Great Depression. The photographers’ new antipoverty site may, like Walker and Agee’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” provoke the question, “Is this America?”

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: