Sunday, March 07, 2021

Weekly honored after filling revenue gap with sponsorships, grants and relief money, and collaborating with J-schools

Chatham County is next to the Research Triangle of  Raleigh,
Chapel Hill and Durham, N.C. (Click on map to enlarge it.)
A weekly newspaper in the heart of North Carolina is showing that a small news outlet can develop new sources of revenue to maintain the quality of its journalism.

"This is the story of a $120,300 juggling act involving human capital, dollars and sense," University of Kentucky journalism professor Buck Ryan writes in the latest installment of his case study of the Chatham News + Record, a 3,800-circulation weekly.

The paper won 28 news awards in the 2020 North Carolina Press Association contest for 2020, more than any other small weekly and more than any other newspaper except for three metro dailies, Ryan reports: "But alas, the awards carry no fiscal benefits. The cruel reality for community newspapers is that quality is necessary but not sufficient for profitability. Every day is a street fight for sustainability."

Ryan tells how Editor-Publisher Bill Horner III and two partners bought and combined two money-losing newspapers, the News and the Record. "From the start, Horner was consumed by the juggling act facing every community newspaper leader: revenue and staffing. He remains the only original staff member on the news side and the head worrier about plugging holes in a sinking advertising-revenue ship, bleeding up to $2,000 a week."

Horner filled the gap with $37,300 in grants from Facebook and Google, $18,000 from local sponsorships and $60,000 in a forgivable Covid-19 relief loan, "plus $5,000 in underwriting from the Missouri School of Journalism to support an innovation intern." The paper has also worked with the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Ryan gives details in a narrative and an interview with Horner, available here.

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