Jan 26·edited Jan 26Pinned

Smart and timely column. It is wonderfully encouraging to see philanthropy newly grasping the issue of local news' deepening spiral of loss and its effect on democracy, local and national. And your point on how that (newIsh) philanthropy proceeds in its decision-making, centralization and, importantly, timeline is one fundamental question for the year ahead in the Local Journalism Debates of 2023.

Your points, and the ongoing debate seen in the Center for Effective Philanthropy to-the-point report, clearly offer another alternative that has gotten too little air in those debates -- the kind of direct, support of scale and of organizational strength seen in the contrarian strategy of McKenzie Scott. As good people plot their support this weekend in Palm Springs, we'd hope they'd hear about two other words that have gotten such short shrift in the roadmap they are being presented.

Those words, amazingly: Local News.

The roadmap, unfortunately, throws out too much of the baby with the bathwater of legacy newspapers. It paints a new landscape of needed "civic information", while hardly mentioning that readers and communities want, and will support and pay for, local news. And that local news, newly created and presented for this age, embraces civic information. We offer and embed it every day. But no one wakes up in the morning, hungry for "civic info." News drives readership. News, with well-executed business (membership + advertising +), pays journalists. Journalists, at their best, produce a steady stream of local news and civic information every day.

Philanthropy paying for "civic information" won't rebuild Local News.

Philanthropy, through seed investment and supplement, supporting news organizations (non-profit or for-profit, as long as they are mission-driven) is what's needed in 2023-2025. And, support with the kind of intention, speed and vetted trust that MacKenzie Scott has brought to the table, miraculously.

New local news organizations need to be strong and smart and well supported. Lookout Santa Cruz has been working some key, like-minded, hard-driving peers, and we'll soon meet in Santa Cruz, to plot out our own growth strategies and how we can help each other. We're individually and collectively proud of the work of the Daily Memphian, Colorado Sun, Long Beach Post, Block Club Chicago, Baltimore Banner and Lookout Local, and will raise our Local News voices in this most vital of debates.

Ken Doctor, Lookout

Expand full comment
Jan 26Liked by Richard J. Tofel

Great column, Dick! Totally agree. The best way to problem solve is to empower grassroots leaders, operating locally, who see and understand real solutions that work. Positive side effect is that support more likely will go to women, people of color, and people without great means operating in small towns and neighborhoods. I've always thought Mackenzie Bezos gets that and she leads without ego. I personally loved that she gave Girl Scouts a huge gift this year. Thanks for the column.

Expand full comment