20200
P
1
20100
R  E
2
2070
D   I   C
3
2050
T   I   O   N
4
2040
S   F   O   R   J
5
2030
O  U  R  N  A  L
6
2020
I  S  M  2  0  2  0
7

What’s left of local gets comfortable with reader support

“Forcing editors and publishers to think about how best to find reader support in order to access additional funds is encouraging thinking that should have started 10 years ago. Better late than ever.”

As the economics of media have shifted dramatically over the last decade, different sectors of the industry have responded to the collapse of print advertising in different ways. There are exceptions, of course and always, but the large national papers for the most part chased audience growth and scale; the chains started merging to eliminate overhead costs; and the smaller papers that communities across the country have long relied on for local news provided less and less of it every year as they cut costs and personnel, leaving them thin and vulnerable to venture-capital vultures looking to pull pennies out of subscribers too committed — or too lazy — to call and cancel.

(Just as someone somewhere is still paying for AOL dialup, there are lifetime subscribers who’ll let their auto-renew auto-renew, no matter how poor the product gets.)

But what if we thought of those subscribers as something other than customers to put advertising in front of? What if we thought of them as readers first, with ideas about what kind of information might be most valuable to them, and the funds to fuel its creation?

While all of this consolidation and collapse was happening in what we often think of as traditional media, a new wave of nonprofit outlets rose up to join the old stalwarts like the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Foundation for National Progress (publisher of Mother Jones), both of which were formed in the mid-1970s. ProPublica, The Texas Tribune, The Marshall Project, InsideClimate News, MinnPost, and dozens of others are all between seven and 12 years old. The Investigative News Network (now the Institute for Nonprofit News) was launched in 2009.

Maybe they needed a decade to be convinced of their sustainability. Or maybe they just weren’t ready to build the infrastructure necessary to diversify their revenue streams. Whatever the case is, today, finally — and more so in 2020 and every year beyond — for-profit media is looking to nonprofit media to learn how to make readers a bigger part of their support systems. HuffPost, owned by the telecom conglomerate Verizon, introduced a tiered membership program with special newsletters for paying subscribers. So did BuzzFeed News. The Salt Lake Tribune went so far as to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity, meaning that readers — or anyone, really — could make tax-deductible donations to the 150-year-old paper.

There’s lots of work to be done. But I’m encouraged by the news this month that in 2020, Report for America will be placing 250 journalists in more than 160 newsrooms all over the United States, from Pennsylvania to Puerto Rico — more than half of them for-profit.

This effort, a program of the Groundtruth Project that launched in 2018, has been celebrated for moving quickly to fill gaps in local news coverage. And rightfully so! But I think what’s most exciting is the unique way the program is structured: Newsrooms, strapped for cash, are eager to sign on when they learn Report for America covers half the salary of every position. In turn, those newsrooms are asked to raise a “local share,” made up of money from the community.

Report for America can help newsrooms find that funding by pitching local foundations or assisting with crowd-funding campaigns — but forcing editors and publishers to think about how best to find reader support in order to access additional funds is encouraging thinking that should have started 10 years ago. Better late than ever.

Nicholas Jackson is the former editor-in-chief of Pacific Standard.

As the economics of media have shifted dramatically over the last decade, different sectors of the industry have responded to the collapse of print advertising in different ways. There are exceptions, of course and always, but the large national papers for the most part chased audience growth and scale; the chains started merging to eliminate overhead costs; and the smaller papers that communities across the country have long relied on for local news provided less and less of it every year as they cut costs and personnel, leaving them thin and vulnerable to venture-capital vultures looking to pull pennies out of subscribers too committed — or too lazy — to call and cancel.

(Just as someone somewhere is still paying for AOL dialup, there are lifetime subscribers who’ll let their auto-renew auto-renew, no matter how poor the product gets.)

But what if we thought of those subscribers as something other than customers to put advertising in front of? What if we thought of them as readers first, with ideas about what kind of information might be most valuable to them, and the funds to fuel its creation?

While all of this consolidation and collapse was happening in what we often think of as traditional media, a new wave of nonprofit outlets rose up to join the old stalwarts like the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Foundation for National Progress (publisher of Mother Jones), both of which were formed in the mid-1970s. ProPublica, The Texas Tribune, The Marshall Project, InsideClimate News, MinnPost, and dozens of others are all between seven and 12 years old. The Investigative News Network (now the Institute for Nonprofit News) was launched in 2009.

Maybe they needed a decade to be convinced of their sustainability. Or maybe they just weren’t ready to build the infrastructure necessary to diversify their revenue streams. Whatever the case is, today, finally — and more so in 2020 and every year beyond — for-profit media is looking to nonprofit media to learn how to make readers a bigger part of their support systems. HuffPost, owned by the telecom conglomerate Verizon, introduced a tiered membership program with special newsletters for paying subscribers. So did BuzzFeed News. The Salt Lake Tribune went so far as to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity, meaning that readers — or anyone, really — could make tax-deductible donations to the 150-year-old paper.

There’s lots of work to be done. But I’m encouraged by the news this month that in 2020, Report for America will be placing 250 journalists in more than 160 newsrooms all over the United States, from Pennsylvania to Puerto Rico — more than half of them for-profit.

This effort, a program of the Groundtruth Project that launched in 2018, has been celebrated for moving quickly to fill gaps in local news coverage. And rightfully so! But I think what’s most exciting is the unique way the program is structured: Newsrooms, strapped for cash, are eager to sign on when they learn Report for America covers half the salary of every position. In turn, those newsrooms are asked to raise a “local share,” made up of money from the community.

Report for America can help newsrooms find that funding by pitching local foundations or assisting with crowd-funding campaigns — but forcing editors and publishers to think about how best to find reader support in order to access additional funds is encouraging thinking that should have started 10 years ago. Better late than ever.

Nicholas Jackson is the former editor-in-chief of Pacific Standard.

An Xiao Mina   The Forum we wanted, the forum we got

Matt DeRienzo   Local broadcasters begin to fill the gaps left by newspapers

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Madelyn Sanfilippo and Yafit Lev-Aretz   News coverage gets geo-fragmented

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

Marie Gilot   This is fine

Dannagal G. Young   Let’s disrupt the logic that’s driving Americans apart

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

Elizabeth Hansen and Jesse Holcomb   Local news initiatives run into a capital shortage

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Zizi Papacharissi   A president leads, the press follows, reality fades

Kevin Douglas Grant   The free press stands against authoritarians’ attacks on truth

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Nicholas Jackson   What’s left of local gets comfortable with reader support

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Lucas Graves   A smarter conversation about how (and why) fact-checking matters

Cory Haik   We’re already consuming the future of news — now we have to produce it

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Millie Tran   Wicked

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

Margarita Noriega   The platforms try to figure out what to do with single-subject newsrooms

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

Nico Gendron   Make better products if you want to reach Gen Z

Irving Washington   Leadership isn’t something you learn on the job

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Christa Scharfenberg   It’s time to make journalism a field that supports and respects women

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Carrie Brown-Smith   Engaged journalism: It’s finally happening

Linda Solomon Wood   Everyone in your organization, moving toward a common goal

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Errin Haines   Race and gender aren’t a 2020 story — they’re the story

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

Bill Adair   A Nobel Prize, a Brad Pitt film, and a Taylor Swift song

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Jim Brady   We’ll complain about other people living in bubbles while ignoring our own

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Richard J. Tofel   A constraint of the reader-revenue model emerges

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

M. Scott Havens   First-party data becomes media’s most important currency

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Joanne McNeil   A return to blogs (finally? sort of?)

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, collaboration in a time of state attacks

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

John Garrett   It’s the best time in a century to start a local news organization

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Jeremy Gilbert and Jarrod Dicker   A call for collaboration between storytelling and tech

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Power to the people (on your audience team)

Kourtney Bitterly   Transparency isn’t just a desire, it’s an expectation

james Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

L. Gordon Crovitz   Fighting misinformation requires journalism, not secret algorithms

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

Joshua Darr   All that campaign cash will make the media’s problems worse

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

Raney Aronson-Rath   News deserts will proliferate — but so will new solutions

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists get left behind in the industry’s decline

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Rachel Davis Mersey   The business of local TV news will enter its downward slide

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The business we want, not the business we had

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

Laura E. Davis   Know the context your journalism is operating within

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   A changing industry amps up podcasters’ ambitions

A.J. Bauer   A fork in the road for conservative media

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots