Following a comprehensive statewide study, philanthropies and news outlets join forces to drastically increase quality, independent, community-centered local news for Indiana; Indianapolis and Gary to get new, nonprofit newsrooms
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INDIANAPOLIS – Feb. 15, 2023 – A coalition of Indiana organizations and philanthropists have raised over $10 million to launch the Indiana Local News Initiative, dedicated to making quality, independent local news and information freely accessible to all residents of Indiana.
The announcement follows a comprehensive statewide research study led by a steering committee of local journalism, community and business leaders, including Tamara Winfrey-Harris, president of the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana; Mark Miles, chief executive officer of Penske Entertainment Corp.; Rafael Sanchez, chief impact officer at Old National Bank; Myrta Pulliam, journalist and community leader; Kevin Corcoran, veteran Indiana journalist and strategy director at Lumina Foundation; and Karen Ferguson Fuson, former publisher of the Indianapolis Star, in partnership with the American Journalism Project. Working together with a team of 27 community ambassadors representing a wide range of experiences and backgrounds across the state, and through text messaging and online surveys, interviews and focus groups, researchers heard from over 1,000 Hoosiers across 79 counties who said they needed more unbiased, fact-based information about their communities.
The new initiative’s mission is to ensure residents of Indiana have the local news and information they want and need, and will employ three strategies:
- Fill gaps by creating new, independent newsrooms with innovative community journalism programs;
- Facilitate investment in partner news organizations to strengthen their news and their impact;
- Foster collaboration with a growing list of local news partners to amplify quality, independent journalism for all Hoosiers, especially underserved communities.
To start, the initiative will launch a robust, 25-person news organization in Central Indiana and produce accountability reporting and employ innovative community journalism programs that engage residents in setting coverage priorities. In addition, facilitated investments will support other organizations in the ecosystem; Capital B, a local-national nonprofit news organization serving Black communities, will launch a new newsroom serving Gary, and existing outlets including the Indianapolis Recorder, Indiana News Service, a bureau of Public News Service, and Franklin College’s TheStatehouseFile.com are receiving support as well. The initiative has also created partnerships with nearly a dozen local news organizations (listed below) to work together to amplify local journalism, and will continue to grow the list.
“With these initial investments, we are adding some 30 local news jobs and hope to add many more,” said Ferguson Fuson, who will serve as board chair of the new organization. “We’ll be working together with partners to amplify existing coverage, close coverage gaps and drastically increase the amount of unbiased original reporting in Indiana. Community and collaboration are the core of this initiative.”
A search committee that includes local and national journalism, nonprofit, media and community experts will immediately begin a public search for a Central Indiana editor in chief, and the initiative is also hiring a community journalism director. The organization will be governed by a board of local journalism, community, nonprofit and business leaders with diverse backgrounds and political perspectives. The board is still under development and will be announced in the coming months.
“Free and open access to local news is a foundational part of our democracy. Our communities need trusted, unbiased information sources that are representative and centered on what residents want. This initiative is a first step in ensuring this vital community asset can continue to exist, and serve all Hoosiers,” said Winfrey-Harris, who is also serving on the search committee.
A combination of philanthropy, membership and corporate support will sustain the initiative; supporters of the initiative so far include Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Herbert Simon Family Foundation, Myrta Pulliam, Lumina Foundation, John Mutz, Michael Arnolt, the Robert R. and Gayle T. Meyer Family Fund, Gene D’Adamo, Joyce Foundation and the Indianapolis Foundation, an affiliate of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, and the American Journalism Project. The initiative will continue fundraising and making investments to fulfill its mission of ensuring information gaps are filled for all of Indiana’s communities.
“The Indiana Local News Initiative is a transformational opportunity for the residents of our state,” said Gene D’Adamo, president and CEO of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. “It supports the foundation of democracy and could fundamentally change the way local news is delivered and consumed in Indiana.”
The announcement is the latest in a growing movement to revive local news in communities across the country with transformational investments in public service journalism by local philanthropies. Other major initiatives in recent years include Signal, a nonprofit organization in Ohio that has raised nearly $13 million to date, and Houston Landing, a soon-to-launch publication with $20 million in startup capital.
“The heroic coalition behind the Indiana Local News Initiative proves that local philanthropies and civic leaders can work together to reverse the alarming decrease of local journalism and make a huge difference in the trajectory of their communities,” Michael Ouimette, senior vice president, strategy & startups at the American Journalism Project, said. “The initiative puts Indiana at the forefront of a national movement of communities stepping up to respond to the local news crisis.”
More local news for Indiana
The new, yet-to-be-named Central Indiana newsroom will produce non-partisan journalism on a daily basis that is free to access, centers community voices and lets residents help set newsgathering priorities. It will produce contextual, solutions-oriented reporting on critical topics and continuously follow up on issues until they’re resolved for local communities. It will employ a community reporting model that trains and pays Hoosiers to help with coverage and distribution, and launch Indianapolis Documenters, a local affiliate of the award-winning national Documenters Network, operated by City Bureau.
With support from Lumina Foundation and Joyce Foundation, Capital B will launch a new local newsroom serving Gary, which will deliver trusted and high-quality reporting tailored to the needs of Black communities in Gary and the Northwest Indiana region. As Capital B’s second location after Atlanta, the new newsroom will publish critical information about affordable housing, applying for benefits, voting and more. It will produce civic journalism and accountability reporting with an editorial strategy informed by intensive community listening and engagement.
TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students, which previously charged newsrooms for rights to its award-winning coverage of state government, has received support from Lumina Foundation to make its content available free to members of the Hoosier State Press Association, greatly increasing the availability of critical statehouse coverage for all Hoosiers. The grant also supports TheStatehouseFile.com’s partnership with The Indiana Citizen, an award-winning nonprofit news and civic engagement organization focused on providing reporting from the Indiana Statehouse and news and information on civic life in Indiana.
The Indianapolis Recorder, one of the oldest surviving African American newspapers in the country, has received a grant from The Indianapolis Foundation, an affiliate of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, to add two new roles to its staff as part of the initiative, and will be able to remove its paywall as a result of the support.
Indiana News Service, a bureau of Public News Service, is a newswire that is heard, read and seen through nearly 70 media outlets across the entire state, the majority of which serve rural areas. Indiana News Service has received support from Lumina Foundation to expand original Indiana reporting, air a statewide newscast Monday to Friday, collaborate with local news outlets, and distribute the reporting to media outlets across Indiana, for free.
Other partners include WFYI Public Media, one of the longest standing, independent newsrooms in the state, as it continues to provide free, accessible news content for all through in-depth, community-driven reporting available both digitally and on-air daily.
Join the movement for local news in Indiana
All open roles associated with the initiative can be found at http://localnewsforindiana.org/jobs, including editor in chief and community journalism director for the new Central Indiana newsroom.
The Central Indiana editor in chief search committee will include:
- Karen Ferguson Fuson, Indiana Local News Initiative board chair, former publisher of the Indianapolis Star
- Kevin Corcoran, strategy director, Lumina Foundation and veteran Indiana journalist
- Oseye Boyd, public engagement editor, Indianapolis Star, and former editor of the Indianapolis Recorder
- Tamara Winfrey-Harris, president of the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana
- Mizell Stewart III, former executive at Gannett / USA TODAY Network and former editor of the Evansville Courier & Press
- Loretta Chao, vice president, strategy & startups, American Journalism Project
Newsroom partners will include:
- Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism at Indiana University
- Capital B Gary
- Chalkbeat Indiana
- Circle City Broadcasting
- Hoosier State Press Association
- Indiana Capital Chronicle
- The Indiana Citizen
- Indiana News Service
- The Indianapolis Recorder
- Indianapolis Star
- WFYI Public Media
About the Indiana Local News Initiative
The Indiana Local News Initiative is a nonprofit organization based in Indianapolis, fiscally sponsored by the American Journalism Project. With $10 million raised so far, it is on a mission to ensure all residents of Indiana have the local news and information they want and need, and is filling information gaps with the launch of a robust newsroom in Central Indiana, facilitating investments in journalism outlets around the state, and fostering collaboration among Indiana outlets to amplify local journalism for all Hoosiers, especially underserved communities. The initiative receives support from a broad coalition of philanthropies.
About the American Journalism Project
The American Journalism Project is a venture philanthropy dedicated to local news. We believe in civic journalism as a public good and are reimagining its future by building a model to finance and sustain the local news our democracy requires. We make grants to local nonprofit news organizations to build their revenue and business operations, partner with communities to launch new organizations, and mentor leaders as they grow and sustain their newsrooms. To learn more about the American Journalism Project, visit our website.