by Jim Hightower
How about a little bit of good news for a change? Specifically, good news about news.
The demise of local newspapers has been a very depressing story in the last few years, with several thousand of them gobbled up by Wall Street profiteers. Those money powers loot the publications’ assets, then callously shut down each community’s paper, or reduces them to empty news shells. So that’s that—local print journalism is passé, right?
Wrong! High-spirited, community-minded subscribers in places like Glen Rose (Texas), Hamburg (Iowa), Portland (Maine), and International Falls (Minnesota) are humming an upbeat tune of regeneration that could be titled “Not Dead Yet!” In Maine, for example, five of the state’s six daily papers and 17 weeklies were sinking under the ownership of an investment group. But all were recently bought by the National Trust for Local News (nationaltrustforlocalnews.org), a non-profit started two years ago. The Trust is turning each publication over to local owners and helping them find ways to become sustainable.
Another new effort, called Cherry Road Media, has bought 77 rural papers in 17 states, most from the predatory Gannett conglomerate that wanted to dump them. Cherry Road’s business plan is simple, old-time genius—return editorial decision-making to local people and journalists who know the town, be an active presence and participant in community affairs, make the locals responsible for sustaining their town’s paper—and most important, reinvest profits in real local journalism that advances democracy.
In both of these new initiatives, the foremost mission is to serve the common good of the communities, not to pad the wealth of a few distant financiers. To learn more about these models (and how you might implement something similar in your town), contact Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues: RuralJournalism.org.
Copyright 2023 by Jim Hightower & Associates. Contact Laura Ehrlich (Laura@jimhightower.com) for more information.