Thursday, December 29, 2022

Our year-end appeal: not just for us, but for all those news outlets that need more money to pay for journalism

Another version of our bumper strip adds: "to independent journalism"
It seems safe to presume that most readers of The Rural Blog, which is free, subscribe to more than one other publication that is not free. You know that it takes money to pay for journalism, and you probably  know that only a relatively small minority of Americans say they're willing to pay for it. So, it's up to those of us who value journalism to support it by subscribing and otherwise underwriting it with memberships, donations and other devices that news outlets increasingly use to replace the advertising revenue that has moved to social-media platforms.

The Rural Blog is published by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Commuity Issues, which was founded 20 years ago to help rural journalists define the public agenda in their communities through strong reporting and commentary, especially on issues that have local impact but few good local sources. In the last 10 years, we have increasingly worked to help rural news outlets survive and serve, and our new focus is on the sustainability of rural journalism, which is under threat. Newspaper closures, which have been almost entirely in suburban communities and rural towns that are not county seats, are spreading to county seats, and more than 200 counties in the U.S. have no local newspaper. Many other county-seat papers are struggling, and every month brings news of more closures or mergers.

One of the more encouraging developments in journalism recently has been the influx of philanthropic money to support local and statehouse reporting, but it remains to be seen if philanthropy can be effective in rural areas, where news outlets and their audiences are small. In such places, it is especially important for a news outlet to have the support of the community, and it must earn that support. We like to say that people aren't going to pay good money for bad journalism, so we also remain focused on helping rural news outlets do journalism that helps communities realize their value.

In June we held the second National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, which asked this question: "How do rural communities sustain journalism that supports local democracy?" We began to get answers, and will keep looking for them, with the help of our colleagues at the University of Kentucky. We hope you will help, too, by making a tax-deductible donation. You can do it here. Thanks, and happy new year!

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