There has been an explosion in funding for local news, but most of it is national.
great piece, thanks. As a founder of a local news outlet (for my VT town of 3k) I would just say that local funding can come with local agendas... national funding, not so much....and that's a consideration. We are trying to achieve a sustainable model that is mostly volunteer, highly technical so no costs, includes community events, and driven by hundreds of local donors giving small amounts. On top of that, we run fully transparent financing, so everyone can see who is financially backing our journalism.
Love this. The same argument can be made in the international media space where most of the philanthropy supporting journalism in low income countries goes to international publishers, international organizations and relatively little goes to the local media in the countries where the journalism can have as much or more impact.
Thanks for calling attention to this critical need. One thought: perhaps there can/should be a different/broader appeal for local funding. "Democracy" resonates with national funders; not so sure it works as well locally. I am not saying local funders don't care about democracy, but they often do not use that framing. They tend to talk more about, for example, the health of their communities, and perhaps there ought to be a framing that talks about how trustworthy information is part of community health. Heck, sometimes local funders care about high school sports scores; "democracy" doesn't quite hit the nail on that head. In short, I think there can be better appeals to local funders than there currently are.
Thank you for writing this one. I have been running Residents Watch (https://www.residentswatch.in), a hyper-local publication in Bangalore, India, since 2012, and I know the difficulties of sustaining the operation. When I could not pay for the printing costs from advertising that came down drastically, I had to go online three years ago, and expand my coverage area. Last year, Google funded the publication for six months. But this year, it's back to square one. That's the pitiful state of hyper-local news. Everybody wants free news. Nobody wants to pay. Google Adsense works only for mainstream publications with millions of people visiting their sites.
Seconding Barbara with thanks for bringing this issue to light. In my couple of decades in small local markets, admittedly a statistically insignificant sample, the appeal to "democracy" was compelling to a very few -- be they readers, funders, or advertisers. Could national funders direct more energy towards helping small local outlets frame their case for (local) support?