Friday, June 03, 2022

Summit Fri. and Sat. asks: How do rural communities sustain local journalism that supports local democracy?

How do rural communities sustain local journalism that supports local democracy? That is the question before the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, to be livestreamed on YouTube from 1:15 to 5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. until late afternoon Saturday.

The summit will be held at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill near Harrodsburg, Ky., where the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues held the first summit 15 years ago. Two dozen invited speakers and a local audience will try to answer the question by exploring the current landscape of rural journalism and how rural news media are adapting to it, with revised business models and other innovations. All sessions will include a period for questions, answers and discussion among participants, and the YouTube audience can submit questions by email to

Following is the program, which has recently been revised. All times are Eastern.

Friday, June 3

1:15 Opening remarks: Why we’re doing this and what we hope to accomplish
Al Cross, director and professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, and Dr. Jennifer Greer, dean, College of Communication and Information, University of Kentucky

1:30 The state of America’s community newspapers and their journalism: Penelope Muse Abernathy, visiting professor, Northwestern University, will update her groundbreaking research.

2:15 Reports from leaders of the community newspaper industry: National Newspaper Association Executive Director Lynne Lance will join former NNA president Robert Williams Jr. and Tom Silvestri of The Relevance Project of the Newspaper Association Managers.

3:00 Putting local philanthropy in your business model: Nathan Payne of Kaiser Health News, recently editor of the Traverse City Record-Eagle, on how community foundations can help; Jody Lawrence-Turner of the Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism; and Dennis Brack of the Rappahannock News, Washington, Va., which uses local philanthropy for polling and reporting.

4:00 Converting your newspaper(s) to nonprofit status: Liz and Steve Parker, former owners and still operators of the New Jersey Hills Media Group, on their recent conversion to the nonprofit Corporation for New Jersey Local Media.

Saturday, June 4

9:00 National funders and supporters on help for rural journalism: Jason Alcorn, vice president for learning and impact, American Journalism Project; Jonathan Kealing, chief network officer at the Institute for Nonprofit News; and Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, Columbia University, co-founder, National Trust for Local News.

10:00 Good journalism is good business, but how do we make people want local news? Editor-Publishers Marshall Helmberger of the Timberjay, Tower, Minn.; and Sharon Burton of the Adair County Community Voice, Columbia, Ky.

10:30 How two community newspapers are adapting to change: Publishers Bill Horner of the Chatham (N.C.) News+Record and Terry Williams of the Keene (N.H.) Sentinel discuss their work with Buck Ryan, associate professor of journalism at the University of Kentucky. 

11:15 Innovation at other community newspapers: Tony Baranowski, Iowa Falls Times-Citizen, with Jim Iovino, director, NewStart, West Virginia University.

12:00 Lunch session: A university-nonprofit team saves a weekly paper: Dink NeSmith of Community Newspapers Inc. and The Oglethorpe Echo, staffed by journalism students of the University of Georgia.

1:00 New business models for community newspapers, and a plan to test one: Dr. Teri Finneman, University of Kansas, who says many rural newspaper subscribers are willing to buy memberships and e-newsletters to keep their local papers healthy. (Read more)

2:00 What other research is needed to help community journalism? Bill Reader, Ohio University, and Clay Carey, Samford University, author of The News Untold: Community Journalism and the Failure to Confront Poverty in Appalachia.

3:00 Concluding roundtable, open-ended and led by Al Cross and Jennifer Greer.

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