We all know that local newspapers are in trouble. At least 25% of US papers have closed in the last 15 years. But there are also positive signs: if you look carefully, we're seeing many fresh, independent media projects.
These new projects are innovative, diverse, making money and overwhelmingly using WordPress. That last point really hit home when I was reading this article in the Los Angeles Times. All the newsrooms in the article are using WordPress. And so are all the organizations helping them grow.
Yes, these newsrooms need many other elements to succeed, including money, energy, and courage, but it sure helps to have WordPress too: a reliable publishing platform at an affordable price.
Here's a rundown of the WordPress-based projects in the LA Times article.
This 4-year old non-profit is already the largest newsroom in Mississippi. Their belief is that “good reporting and the accountability it inspires can change the trajectory of our state”. They led coverage around the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from Mississippi’s state flag and of coronavirus infection in local schools. All their articles are under a Creative Commons license, following these guidelines. They're a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News (a WordPress site, of course) which sets high standards for editorial independence.
The Oaklandside launched this summer. They have a set of founding values, which was developed by asking Oaklanders about how local journalism can help make their daily lives better. That connection to the community has served them well: they have far exceeded projections in the number of supporting subscribers.
Votebeat is a project focused on the 2020 elections. The team wanted to combat a shortage of local reporters devoted to covering voting and election administration. They are also a non-profit with a strong focus on independent journalism, guided by a code of ethics.
Calmatters is another journalism non-profit – this time based in Sacramento, California. Their aim is to counter a huge drop in the number of journalists covering the state legislature.
The American Journalism Project
The American Journalism Project provides grants and support to help newsrooms grow sustainably, including Mississippi Today and the Oaklandside.
WordPress and new publishers
This is just one article, but you can get a glimpse for how WordPress underpins this whole ecosystem.
WordPress is an essential tool for many of these new journalism projects. It provides a reliable publishing platform at an affordable price. The Knight Foundation is paying 24 newsrooms to upgrade their websites and 20 choose WordPress. Up in Canada, their new journalism also runs on WordPress.