Saving Community News: New Study Released by the James B. McClatchy Foundation

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 23, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — A new report to be released July 27, 2021, by the James B. McClatchy Foundation (JBMF) announces the establishment of the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative (CVJC), a new infrastructure model dedicated to keeping community journalism thriving in California’s Central Valley, despite the collapse of the traditional media industry over the last 15 years, and the outright demise of independent, local news in many American communities. The CVJC is introduced in the new 19-page study, entitled, Feasibility Report on Developing a Central Valley Journalism Collaborative, as a groundbreaking model to save independent fact-based news outlets. JBMF is seeding this new journalism funders collaborative with a $1M grant to fortify First Amendment press freedoms and strengthen diversity in journalism.

The James B. McClatchy Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit philanthropic organization founded in 1994 by Susan and the late James B. McClatchy to address needs in the Central Valley for English Learner students and in protecting the First Amendment. Although James was part of the family ownership and Board Chair of McClatchy Newspapers (founded in 1857) which included The Sacramento Bee, Modesto Bee, and Fresno Bee, the Foundation has never been affiliated with the McClatchy Company or McClatchy publications. (In 2020, the McClatchy Media Company was purchased by Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey-based hedge fund).

Preserving local news coverage is essential to the future of the Central Valley, a diverse home to over 7.5 million people across nearly 20,000 square miles speaking 105 languages. The 15-county region is the backbone of California, producing more than half the nation’s produce, and the lion’s share of California’s $50 billion agricultural economy (CDFA 2019/20).

By strengthening existing community-based media efforts and expanding to new Central Valley communities, JBMF hopes its seed grant will ignite the collaborative and inspire other funders to partner in preserving independent local journalism in the Central Valley. Gathering a pool of funders will allow a wider cross-section of community representation and healthy dialogue, maintaining the integrity of transparency, accountability, and ability to develop independent media resources to fill the news coverage void, officials noted.

"Our research reveals an innovative path to keeping local news alive by collaborating with successful community partners who are sustaining and changing the news landscape in their own communities," said Priscilla Enriquez, JBMF Chief Executive Officer. "We believe that broader community investment and increased funder participation is the key to sustaining independent journalism in the Valley and other communities. Our investment harnesses the power of Central Valley community partners for the long-term benefit of the entire Valley, and ultimately California at large." 

The report cites multiple successful emerging programs that its project hopes to build on. One example is Microsoft’s Journalism Initiative, which has adopted Fresno as one of its local news pilot communities. Through this program Microsoft works in partnership with community foundations to support local newsrooms and help them use the latest tools and technology to tell stories in new ways, experiment with new revenue streams and funding models, and together with other community leaders, organizations and funders increase the overall capacity of the news ecosystem.

"As we’ve learned in the Central Valley, collaborations between community foundations, philanthropic organizations, and corporations can help sustain local news ecosystems," said Mary Snapp, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Microsoft. "By coming together to support these newsrooms and provide them tools, technology, and funding, we can help ensure the region has healthy journalism for generations to come."

Across America, local newspapers are struggling to survive as advertising revenue has plummeted roughly 70% since 2000. Nationwide more than one in four newspapers shut down in the last 15 years. Social media companies, which reap the profits of the First Amendment but operate free of the responsibilities of fact-based news obligations, led the evisceration of the news industry’s revenue; today social media companies rake in 77% of locally focused ad revenue nationwide.

Enriquez adds that strengthening mainstream journalism resources that truly serve the community is the best way to combat the destructive forces of malignant disinformation campaigns.  Nationwide, the devastation of community news outlets has created "news deserts" with whole swaths of America living without any community news coverage. "That reality was the catalyst for change, motivating JBMF to take action with this report and newly announced journalism collaborative," said Enriquez.

"To provide a lasting solution, we need to consider structural changes in how journalism is funded and how philanthropy engages with the sector," the JBMF report states. "The future of economic sustainability for local journalism is inextricably linked to the public service it performs. This is why community engagement and impact are central tenets of a new movement of philanthropy, funding critical reporting positions and projects at local newsrooms across the country."

JBMF co-founder Susan McClatchy adds, "With this study and initial $1M investment, our Foundation is poised to help lead the Valley into the next chapter in journalism and preserve the First Amendment protection of a free press as an enduring force for good in the Valley." 

"Preserving civil society, empowering economic opportunity, and protecting our constitutional rights all require a vibrant local press," the report further states. "A new platform for maintaining local journalism in the Central Valley is required and possible." Preview or download the full report here.

All downloadable graphics available here.
*Social content embargoed until 8AM PDT, July 27, 2021

The JBMF study was conducted by StudioToBe, a consulting and media agency dedicated to independent journalism. 

About JBMF:
The James B. McClatchy Foundation, formerly known as the Central Valley Foundation, was founded in 1994 by Susan and the late James B. McClatchy who together envisioned an organization that builds brilliant futures in California’s Central Valley through support for English Learners and First Amendment protections of free speech, freedom of expression, and a free press. Over 25 years, the Foundation has made annual grants across its footprint in the Central Valley and continues to seek promising new ways to advance the region’s most valuable resource – the abundant cultural wealth of its people. The James B. McClatchy Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit philanthropic organization and is not affiliated with the McClatchy Company or McClatchy publications.

Jennie Breister
JBMF Communications
(916) 603-3543 / (916) 979-9166 ext 805

SOURCE James B. McClatchy Foundation

Related Links