In June 2024, the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona hosted an informative webinar about the importance and impact of supporting local news and journalism. This webinar highlighted work being done in Southern Arizona and featured insights and perspectives from three national experts: Dean Baquet with The New York Times, Teresa Gorman with Democracy Fund, and Christina Shih with Press Forward.

In March 2024, The Local News Initiative of Southern Arizona, an initiative of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, announced that $225,000 in total has been awarded to six organizations supporting local news throughout Southern Arizona. This is the first round of grants awarded by the recently established Local News Initiative.

The inaugural grant recipients include:

The Initiative received eighteen applications for this first round of funding, totaling $1.2 million. Grant recipients were selected by a grants committee comprised of diverse community volunteers from throughout Southern Arizona. For this funding round, the grants committee specifically considered applicants’ capacity to produce and deliver news and information that community members need and their ability to reach traditionally underrepresented communities.

Advisory Board Chair Nancy Sharkey, a former senior editor at The New York Times who spent more than a decade as a professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism in Tucson, stated, “The newsrooms chosen will all be able to increase their reporting in Southern Arizona, a key goal in this first round of grants. The funding will support several different models for additional reporting, such as more traditional reporters, paid internships, and the training of citizen journalists. We hope to assist news organizations in Southern Arizona over the next few years as they develop sustainable business models. People in many cities lament the decline of local news; in Southern Arizona, we’ve started to do something about it.”

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The Local News initiative for Southern Arizona was created to help strengthen local journalism in our community and fill critical gaps in local news and information.

Read about the initiative launch here.

A group of civic leaders joined with the community foundation to launch the initiative in November 2023. They worked together for nearly a year to address concerns about the steady decline in local news coverage and local journalists reporting on Tucson, Pima County, and parts of Southern Arizona.

The initiative raises public awareness about the impact of the loss of local news in our community and the local solutions and opportunities to address it. The goal is to build philanthropic support for a new pooled fund so that we can start the first cycle of grantmaking in early 2024 to hire more local journalists to increase local news coverage about and for our community.

The Challenge

The Local News initiative for Southern Arizona was created to help strengthen local journalism in our community and fill critical gaps in local news and information.

A group of civic leaders joined with the community foundation to launch the initiative in November 2023. They worked nearly a year together to address concerns about the steady decline in local news coverage and local journalists reporting on Tucson, Pima County, and parts of Southern Arizona.

The initiative raises public awareness about the impact of the loss of local news in our community and the local solutions and opportunities to address it. The goal is to build philanthropic support for a new pooled fund so that we can start the first cycle of grantmaking in early 2024 to hire more local journalists to increase local news coverage about and for our community.

The Impact of the Local News Crisis in the U.S.

Research shows that the loss of local news can have a negative impact on civic engagement and government accountability in a community. Studies find lower voter turnout, increases in government corruption, lower bond ratings without reporters scrutinizing local budgets, and increased political polarization.

The Opportunity

The Local News Initiative for Southern Arizona will invest in the future of local news and robust local reporting that serves all communities in the formats that best serve them.

The decline in local news has spawned a wave of innovation and opportunities around the country and here in Southern Arizona. There has been a rise in journalists, entrepreneurs, public media newsrooms, and community leaders creating startup nonprofit newsrooms, local online news organizations, family-owned newspapers expanding their reach and investing in the future, mergers between local public media broadcast organizations and local newspapers, collaborative reporting projects and new for-profit models that serve communities with independent, nonpartisan journalism and provide essential news and information.

Rebuilding a future for local news offers an opportunity for the next generation of news organizations to do more community listening and provide more inclusive and equitable coverage for and with communities that have been historically marginalized, underrepresented, and, in some cases – misrepresented in the news.

How You Can Help

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