Local journalism rises from the ashes with some philanthropic help
The Future. Staging a second life, local news outlets are redesignating as nonprofits and attracting philanthropic investment. The shift has led to a rise in “service journalism” that hopes to provide baseline, neutral reporting on topics that have been weaponized by political division. While the turn to a nonprofit structure could defang local outlets, their success could be key in tamping down misinformation — one community at a time.
After years of getting crushed by Big Tech platforms like Meta and Google, local journalism is finally making a comeback… but in a different form.
- Trade organization Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION) reported that it now has over 400 members, up from 177 at the start of the pandemic.
- 80% of these new outlets have fewer than four employees.
- But, Poynter Institute of Media Studies estimates that 50 full-fledged newsrooms opened during the pandemic.
But it’s not all good news: 100 traditional local papers folded over the past year. President Biden’s Build Back Better bill has $1.7 billion in subsidies earmarked for local journalism — if it passes, the cash influx may hopefully revive some of these outlets.
The rise in local outlets stems from many of them registering as nonprofits (double the amount in the last five years). The trend has given rise to what is being called “service journalism,” which is propping up local news in order to provide accurate reporting on vaccine availability and extreme weather conditions — topics that are unfortunately rife with misinformation and polarization.
Still, many believe that nonprofit service journalism is difficult to scale and could cut down on what’s called “accountability journalism” — that sort of deep-dive, long developing investigative reporting that focuses on government corruption or municipal scandals. A healthy journalism ecosystem will hopefully support both.