The Columbian today announces a new community-funded journalism initiative to boost its reporting in key areas.
Already, $1.1 million has been pledged by local donors to fund two reporting lines covering topics related to homelessness and affordable housing and one line covering transportation, including the Bridge Replacement Project. ‘Interstate 5.
Funding is sufficient to cover between three and six years of work per post, and journalists will focus on narrative, investigative and data-driven storytelling.
Columbian’s CFJ initiative is led by Will Campbell, innovation editor and fourth-generation owner of The Columbian. It is in collaboration with the Local Media Foundationa 501(c)(3) charitable trust affiliated with the Local Media Association, one of the largest local media trade associations in North America.
Local donors announced so far are the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Trust, the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund and Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg. After donations are solicitedincluding donations from Colombian readers and individuals.
“Our community and our democracy work better if people have access to timely and accurate information about local events, news and issues of the day,” said David Nierenberg. “The Columbian has served us well since 1890, providing us with exactly this kind of information.
“Gifts from donors in our community will allow its tradition of service to continue and thrive in the digital age. And donations will allow its journalists to learn more about the most important issues facing us, such as education, health care, transportation, crime, housing, economic growth, elections and cultural issues,” he said.
“We cannot afford to take high quality information for granted. Look at Russia today to see what can happen when there is no free press. Please join us in supporting this most worthy cause,” Nierenberg said.
For The Columbian, community-funded journalism marks a moment of transformation as it transitions from an ad-supported business to one supported primarily by subscribers and donors.
“These three positions will increase The Columbian’s Underground reporting team by 50% and allow us to do in-depth reporting on topics that are important to our readers and our community,” Campbell said.
“It is important to note that while major donors will receive a regular account of how their contributions have been spent, they will have no prior knowledge of the stories or the contribution to editorial decisions by The Columbian, which will continue to ‘be taken by newsroom staff,’ Campbell said. . “In the interest of transparency, articles financed by donations will be recognized by the affixing of a logo. Finally, we created a web page to explain this initiative to the public.
Community-funded journalism was pioneered a decade ago by the Seattle Times. Today the Times employs community-funded journalists covering homelessness, education, traffic and investigative reporting topics. Many other newspapers across the country have successfully replicated the Seattle Times model.
In community-funded journalism, donations directly offset the cost of reporting by specific journalists on specific topics and are not used to improve the profits or balance sheet of the newspaper, or even to cover the costs of gathering information about other subjects.
At the Columbian, donations will be used to fund the direct effort of journalists on these key topics. The Local Media Foundation will receive donations and pay them periodically to The Columbian to cover the costs of CFJ reporters and projects.
Following today’s announcement, The Columbian will begin recruiting journalists to apply for the first three community-funded journalism positions, with a target hire date of early to mid-summer. A possible fourth position, covering environment and climate change, depends on continued fundraising efforts.
Campbell said The Columbian is working to solicit about $650,000 in additional donations to support the four journalist positions for at least six years each. The Colombian plans to expand the community-funded journalism program as far into the future as possible with additional donations.
“These additional stories will grow our community,” Campbell said.