A LETTER FROM OUR CO-FOUNDER AND CEO ELIZABETH HANSEN SHAPIRO


 

MAY 24 | 2022

 

Amazingly, and with the support of our incredible partners and some extra strong coffee, our pioneering work in Colorado passed the one-year mark earlier this month. The Trust and the Colorado News Conservancy have been hard at work since May 2021 to support the 24 newspapers of Colorado Community Media. As we reflect on the work ahead, our team has been asking ourselves: what have we learned in the past year? And the answer is straightforward: we have refined our process for preserving and transforming community news. In partnership with local collaborators, we assess the health of a community’s local newspapers; we analyze a detailed set of over 160 economic and social metrics to determine the sustainability potential of those papers; and we work closely with local partners to identify and shepherd the resources required to place those papers in local hands. Then we create and support locally governed conservancies, building in the changes to editorial and business models that can make community papers financially sustainable for the long run. In short, we work to keep local news in local hands. In developing our approach to preserving and transforming community news, we have learned again and again how people genuinely value truly local reporting. A key takeaway from our community research in Colorado points to a widely held desire for something that seems so simple it could be mistaken for obvious: more very local reporting. Be it deeper analysis of town hall machinations, wider coverage of the happenings of main street economic engines, or more solutions-oriented reporting on the complex issues facing a community, residents crave a very local, dedicated source of information. We are deeply honored to be moving forward in the pursuit of sustainable futures for community news around the country. By the time the Colorado News Conservancy passes its two-year anniversary, we hope to have launched in four more states and expanded our support to dozens more newsrooms. In addition to the feedback we have received from community members in Colorado, the immediate urgency of our work has also been placed in stark reality. Pew Research Center released a new study in April showing that the number of full-time newspaper reporters covering state capitols declined by more than a third since 2014. We also learned in April how corporate takeovers of local newspapers lead to "significant" decreases in local content, according to a new study published in the journal, New Media & Society. As we move into this new phase of our work, please share your ideas and your feedback with us. We are thankful for your interest and role in keeping local news in local hands.


 

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—Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro