By Emilie Lutostanski • Director, Local News Resource Center
LMA Chief Executive Officer Nancy Lane joined the Editor & Publisher Reports Vodcast with other industry leaders to share thoughts on what’s in store for local news publishers in a world permanently changed from a global pandemic.
Publisher Mike Blinder moderated a conversation on philanthropic revenue opportunities, the future of maximizing consumer revenue, finding new talent to build critical diversity, and more. Lane joined Tracie Powell, program officer at Borealis Philanthropy, Dave Chavern, president and chief executive officer at News Media Alliance, and Dean Ridings, chief executive officer at America’s Newspapers. Here are a few highlights from the interview.
Lane shared why journalism funded by philanthropy is an equal part of the equation for sustainable journalism, along with consumer revenue, advertising, branded content, and events.
“We think funders now recognize that local journalism is as important as the arts, education and healthcare when they think about their communities and where they need to put their resources. This is a welcome new trend,” she said.
Blinder asked about the emphasis on hiring a younger and more diverse staff, and Lane said the industry must seriously commit to change.
“We are not diverse enough in our newsrooms. A lot of companies are working hard on their diversity strategy,” she said. “Take age out of it, young people want to work in a diverse environment. It’s part of their core values.”
Powell said an emphasis on retention can benefit diversity initiatives at local news organizations, especially with some “last-hired, first-fired” policies that impact journalists of color.
“We need to better support and retain young journalists and journalists of color. We cannot rebuild in the old image because we know that the old image doesn’t work,” she said.
Forecasting the next several critically important years for local news organizations, Lane said digital subscriptions will work only for some, while membership or community contributions are ideal models for other news organizations.
“I worry about our role in a healthy democracy when only 1% of a market can have access to information,” Lane said. “That is a real problem for us that we as an industry need to figure out.”
However, journalism funded by philanthropy continues to prove itself a lucrative opportunity for media of all sizes producing high-quality journalism.
“With the Lab [for Journalism Funding], we specifically set out to prove it for small markets too. We are seeing great success with the smaller publishers,” she said. “Anyone in the local media ecosystem should check out the opportunities with journalism funded by philanthropy if they want to increase the number of reporters and the number of beats.”
Overall, panelists were optimistic about 2021.
“The amount of innovation that we see coming from newspapers right now is more than we’ve seen in a decade,” Lane said.
Q&A with Tracie Powell on disrupting philanthropy, organizational culture, and challenges to the journalism industry