What’s wrong with local news?
To be blunt, local news in America is in crisis. As the economic model for newspapers has collapsed, chains have cut reporting positions from local publications. Some of the most recognized papers in America have been sold out of bankruptcy, from the Miami Herald to the Chicago Tribune. Hedge funds and private equity have scooped up many of these distressed assets and now account for 55% of the newspapers in the U.S. These firms make zero investment in their local communities, with most cutting their way to higher profits.
Even in Nashville?
In 1998, Gannett bought the Nashville Banner and closed it, combining part of the staff with the Tennessean to create a robust newsroom of 180 people. Two decades later, that staff has been cut by two-thirds and the paper is a shell of itself even while the city and region have enjoyed massive growth. It’s not just that Gannett has been a bad steward for Nashville’s citizens, it’s that we now have decades worth of data to show us what to expect from them in the future: fewer journalists, smaller papers, and more digital products that capture and sell your personal data. It’s a future where clickbait stories about celebrities and social media trends are available for free while quality journalism and stories of civic importance are hidden behind a paywall. It’s a future full of pop-up windows, autoplay video and absentee ownership.
Think about it like this
It would be easy to focus on the hundreds of reporting jobs Nashville has lost in the last three decades, but a more instructive way to think about it is this: What would happen if you woke up tomorrow morning and there were 50 more quality news stories about Nashville and Tennessee? How many more communities could we cover that aren’t covered right now? How much more depth could be in those stories? How much more accountability and investigative journalism could be done? That’s what the loss of those jobs represents. It’s time for us to start doing something different.
Nonprofit news: A better way
In the last decade, the rise of nonprofit newsrooms has provided a way forward. Built on audience support and philanthropy instead of digital advertising, organizations like the Texas Tribune, BlockClub in Chicago, CalMatters and more have charted a path forward, focused on replacing the hole left by a shrinking for-profit media. In Tennessee, it’s no surprise that the two newsrooms with the only growth — WPLN in Nashville and the Daily Memphian — are nonprofits. In just three years, the Daily Memphian has grown bigger than the Gannett-owned Commercial Appeal, a legacy newspaper that Gannett has cut to the bone. We believe that the nonprofit model is not only more stable and offers the best incentives for quality news, it provides Nashville’s best hope for replacing the news that we’ve lost.
The new Nashville Banner
We’re currently fundraising to launch with a newsroom of at least 10 journalists. We’ll cover civic news, the kinds of things that help you make decisions about the community you live in: Metro government, state government, courts, criminal justice, the environment, education, housing and development, healthcare and more. We won’t cover Sports, produce opinion pieces or endorse candidates. What we need now more than anything is more boots on the ground providing information that readers can trust.
What can you do?
Right now, sign up for our email list and we’ll keep you updated on our progress. When the Banner launches in 2022, become a member for just a few dollars a month. If you have the ability to help us finish our initial fundraising with a larger donation, contact Paige Hendrickson, our development director at Paige@nashvillepublicmedia.com.
Our lawyers want you to read this
The Banner will be published by Nashville Public Media, Inc., a Tennessee non-profit corporation. NPM has submitted an application to the IRS for recognition as an organization exempt from tax under Section 501(c)(3). The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, a supporter of the Banner and of nonprofit journalism in Nashville, has set up the Banner Fund to financially support the Banner’s mission and allow the public to contribute. Contributions to the Banner Fund are deductible for tax purposes. As we are organized under Section 501(c)(3), contributions directly to Nashville Public Media and the Banner are eligible for deduction as well.
The Banner will be published online and will be an independent, non-partisan news source about issues that affect Nashville and Tennessee. We will offer uniquely Nashville newsletters, podcasts and videos to augment the Banner’s article publication. To help support the mission of the Banner, memberships will be offered. Persons, companies, or other charitable organizations that are interested in supporting the Banner’s mission may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Paige@nashvillepublicmedia.com