We need local news

Local news is our most trusted source for information about the world around us. It provides a shared understanding of what’s happening in our city halls, schools, and businesses.

Local news connects us to our community and to our neighbors. It uplifts voices that would otherwise go unheard.

Local news demands accountability of community, business, and governmental bodies. It forces decision-making structures to operate within the public’s view.

Local news lends us agency, empowering us with the knowledge we need to make informed decisions about issues critical to our daily lives.

But local news is disappearing

2,100

newspapers have closed since 2004

1,800

communities have lost their local newsroom since 2004

60%

of newsroom jobs have been lost since 2008

From 2000 to 2018, weekday newspaper circulation fell from 55.8 million households to an estimated 28.6 million.

From 2000 to 2020, the newspaper industry's advertising revenue fell by an estimated 80%.

Broken models

For the last 150 years we’ve relied on ad revenue, a market transaction, to support a public good. Advertising once accounted for 80% of newspapers’ revenue. In the past 20 years, that revenue stream has fallen by 80%. The economics that supported the news industry for most of the twentieth century are no longer viable. Of the commercial newspapers that still exist, most have been forced by revenue losses to cut resources so dramatically that they struggle to provide any civic value to communities.

 

Ghost newspapers

More than half of those remaining newspapers are owned by financial institutions whose cost-cutting strategies have stripped newsrooms of the resources necessary to produce consistent, original reporting on basic information. People who live in communities that still have a local newspaper may also effectively be living in news deserts.

 

The rise of misinformation

In the absence of trusted news sources, we see targeted disinformation campaigns, including efforts to spread misinformation through social networks and websites masquerading as news brands.

 

Dependency on national news sources that are removed from everyday life

Without a trusted local alternative, individuals have no choice but to turn to the echo chamber of national news outlets and social media for information. Local stories, when they are told by these institutions, become cherry-picked anecdotes that build on national tensions. They’re used to engage a national audience rather than to inform a local one.

 

The loss of local news is a national crisis, with devastating effects on civic life.

The path forward

This moment requires decisive action. We believe every community deserves access to high-quality local news that is governed by, sustained by, and looks like the public it serves.

Nonprofit local news can inform the country. We have a plan to make that happen.

Why nonprofit news?

Nonprofit news is purpose-driven and connected to the community it serves.

By aligning business incentives with their core mission, nonprofit news organizations are able to focus on producing the type of accountability journalism, public-service coverage, and watchdog reporting that builds trust and prioritizes impact over page views.

Nonprofit news is transparent and accountable.

To be sustainable, nonprofit news organizations must hold themselves accountable to their readers, just as they hold local leaders accountable to the people who elected them. Their financing structures reinforce a core tenet of journalistic integrity — that newsrooms operate in service of the communities they inform with editorial independence.

Nonprofit news is entrepreneurial, nimble, and resilient.

Nonprofit news organizations are experimenting with sustainable, scalable business models that support local journalism that strengthens communities.

Nonprofit doesn’t mean noncommercial.

Nonprofit news organizations are raising philanthropic capital as one pillar of a robust and diversified revenue strategy that includes advertising, sponsorship, events, and memberships.

Photos courtesy of our grantee partners at Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, City Bureau, Cityside, inewsource, MLK50, NOISE, Underscore, and VTDigger.