Last week, I invited you to celebrate the launch of nonprofit news in South Snohomish County, and to help us build this organization to better serve our communities. A reminder that the celebration will be held on Thursday, June 29, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Lynnwood Event Center.
During the event, you’ll learn more about our approach to sustainable community news while enjoying appetizers, beverages, live music and some inspiring speakers. It’s free but RSVPs are requested here, so we can plan.
In this week’s column, I want to share more about the nonprofit news landscape, and why I believe that this transformation makes sense for the My Neighborhood News Network family of publications — My Edmonds News, MLTnews and Lynnwood Today.
It’s important to view our move to a nonprofit organization through the lens of what is best for the future of journalism – and the role that local news plays in ensuring our democracy. Thousands of news organizations have shut down in recent years, including several local weekly newspapers that used to cover South Snohomish County.
Late last year, the League of Women Voters of Washington released a study, “The Decline of Local News and Its Impact on Democracy.” You can read the complete report here but I wanted to highlight two significant findings:
- Between 2005 and 2020, more than one fourth of the country’s newspapers – 2,100 in all – disappeared. Half the journalism jobs nationally went away. So did half of the newspaper subscribers. The losses left residents of 1,800 communities in news deserts, meaning they had no local newspaper.
- National research shows the loss of newspapers over the past 20 years has caused serious impacts: Fewer people running for office and fewer people voting, less community engagement, increased political partisanship, and negative outcomes in public health and public finance, among other concerns.
An important note: In the past, some have questioned the legitimacy of online-only news, and I’m grateful to the League of Women Voters for specifically addressing this issue. While their report uses the term newspaper, it clarifies that an online-only publication is considered a newspaper when it provides comprehensive reporting of the area’s people, government agencies, schools and activities. The LWV report quoted Rob Curley, now executive editor of The Spokesman-Review, on this issue. In 2006, when Curley was a vice president at The Washington Post, he told Frontline, “As long as we understand that the most important part of the word ‘newspaper’ is ‘news’ and not ‘paper,’ we are going to be fine.”
Even before our country’s founding, the League of Women Voters study states, “newspapers were a cornerstone of civic lives. Newspapers provided information that enabled readers to be involved in efforts to grow our fledgling democracy. Over the centuries, newspapers have continued to educate readers about significant issues, including providing information so that we could select leaders to help us build healthy and productive communities.”
An increasing number of people are warming to the idea that journalism should no longer be defined as a commercial business. Instead, it should be viewed as a public service and a civic asset that serves our community.
Other news organizations across the nation are starting to follow the nonprofit, public-service path, and I believe it’s the right choice for our websites and our community.
Here are some key reasons:
- It changes the focus of the My Neighborhood News Network from a one-person news operation, supported by a team of freelance and contract help, to an organization that is essentially owned by the community it serves. The work is being guided by an all-volunteer nonprofit board of directors, who bring a range of skill sets and backgrounds to the organization and are committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability community news for Brier, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Woodway.
- It opens the door to additional sources of financial support while still allowing us to accept advertising from our valued sponsors – many of whom have been with us for many years.
- That additional financial support will strengthen our longstanding commitment to serving our community, providing for broader and deeper coverage of issues that matter to our readers — from education and the environment to housing and public safety.
- It demonstrates our commitment to engage residents who are traditionally underserved by the mainstream media – and involve them in building a nonprofit news organization that better serves them..
The Institute for Nonprofit News lists eight nonprofit organizations as members in Washington state, including Seattle-based Crosscut, Grist and InvestigateWest. Smaller communities that have nonprofit news outlets include Gig Harbor Now, Key Peninsula News, Salish Current and The Journal of Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater (The Jolt). We are proud to be the first news outlet in Snohomish County to covert to nonprofit status, thus committing ourselves to long-term sustainability and community ownership of local news.
I look forward to sharing in next week’s column more about ways we plan to engage our community moving forward.
Meanwhile, be sure to RSVP for our official launch event June 29 – and help us build it!
— By Teresa Wippel, President and CEO
My Neighborhood News Network
P.S. Thanks to our launch sponsor, Coastal Community Bank!