A nonprofit model is emerging for local news

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A nonprofit model is emerging for local news

By David McGowan, President and CEO, WJCT Public Media

The recent round of staff buyouts affecting The Florida Times-Union newsroom provided the latest evidence, if any were needed, that the business model of local newspapers is fundamentally broken.

COVID-19 is playing the role of accelerant on a raging fire initially brought on by changing news consumption habits, an over-reliance on advertising and a reluctance or inability to change. The hedge fund and private equity-driven nature of today’s newspaper ownership groups is also a factor, but the consolidation of declining industries usually attracts a certain ruthlessness.

Despite its staff losses, the Times-Union’s newsroom has shown how valuable courageous, enterprising journalism can be to a community. Under the leadership of Editor Mary Kelli Palka, the T-U, a WJCT News partner, has both broken and doggedly pursued stories that have had real and measurable impact. From JEA to Lot J and lots of other stories, the T-U has engaged us all in the civic life of this region in ways large and small that many readers have come to take for granted. It’s also worth remembering that many of these lines of inquiry were not very popular when investigative reporters began them.

But as papers decline, and evidence continues to mount that the crisis in local journalism is having a wide range of negative effects on American public life, new and innovative solutions are being found as local communities rise to meet the challenge. Nonprofit online news services, often working collaboratively with the for-profit newsrooms in their regions, are emerging at a rapid pace.

The Institute for Non-Profit News reports that there are now more than 250 nonprofit newsrooms across the country, and their growth has been steady. Though these newsrooms now employ only a fraction of the more than 28,000 journalism jobs lost from 2008 to 2018, the sector demonstrates increasing levels of impact and sustainability. Importantly, over 40 percent of revenues to the Institute for Non-Profit News members serving local audiences now come from individual supporters.

The growth in local nonprofit digital news comes as the Pew Research Center found that in 2018, roughly 40 percent of adults preferred to get their local news from online sources, with more than three-quarters (77 percent) saying the internet is important in how they receive local news. This squares with WJCT’s own research in 2018, which found that most locals would prefer new local coverage to be offered online. If trends continue at the current pace, online sources are set to become Americans’ top choice for local news, supplanting local TV news broadcasts, within the next year or two.

At WJCT we have been working hard to ensure that we can drive this exciting nonprofit and digital future for local journalism. Not only are we devoting more radio air time to local news than ever — having recently made WJCT News 89.9 into an all-news and talk station — but we’ve also invested in creating a set of online products like ADAPT (adaptflorida.org) that point in the direction we’re headed.

Now, thanks to significant support from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation (a national foundation with its headquarters in Jacksonville), we’re embarking on an expansion of our newsroom that will enable us to begin to build the kind of reporting resources necessary to cover the region more effectively while meeting audiences in new ways.

We approach this task with both determination and humility, and with the knowledge that no single local news organization can give this community all of the quality journalism it deserves. But as the region’s leading user-supported nonprofit news provider, we embrace the moment and all that it requires of us.

Originally published by the Florida Times-Union

NEW PODCAST LOOKS AT MASSIVE PLAN TO SAVE THE EVERGLADES, 20 YEARS & $17 BILLION LATER

WMFE REPORTER AMY GREEN’S ‘DRAINED’ PRODUCED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH FLORIDA CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

ORLANDO — In 2000, President Bill Clinton quietly signed into law a plan to restore the Everglades. Twenty years and $17 billion later, the grandiose vision of reversing decades of environmental damage remains stuck in the swamp. 

In DRAINED, a new four-part podcast out Dec. 8 from WMFE and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, host Amy Green wades into the controversy around one of the most ambitious environmental restoration efforts ever undertaken. 

From rivers of toxic slime to a mind-boggling plan to inject a giant bubble of freshwater a thousand feet underground, DRAINED examines the massive plan to restore the river of grass and poses the big question about the future of this natural wonder: Can it be saved?

WMFE environmental reporter Amy Green

“The plan to save the Everglades is enormous and enormously complicated, but it’s so important to Florida’s future,” Green said. “I have dedicated much of the last 10 years of my career to telling this story, one that embodies humankind’s relationship — and conquest — of nature and all the consequences associated with that. In many ways the story is personal for me, having grown up in Florida and now that I am raising my 6-year-old daughter here. I thank WMFE and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting for their continued support of my work and for providing a platform for this important story.”  

WMFE environmental reporter Amy Green

Trevor Aaronson, executive director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, said the Everglades deserves our attention.

“For Florida, the Everglades are iconic. But I suspect that few Floridians realize how badly we’ve messed up the wetlands that have come to symbolize our state — and how our efforts to restore the Everglades, now going on 20 years, have been both enormously ambitious and jaw-droppingly harebrained,” Aaronson said. “In this four-episode podcast, Amy Green masterfully explains our destructive relationship with the Everglades. As a nonprofit journalism organization, FCIR is proud to partner with Amy and WMFE for this in-depth reporting and storytelling.”

Episodes

Episode 1: A River Runs Dry

Episode 2: Toxic Water

Episode 3: Define Clean

Episode 4: Neverending Restoration

DRAINED is now available at wmfe.orgfcir.org and on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and wherever you get your podcasts. Learn more at https://www.wmfe.org/category/drained.

This is the third partnership for WMFE and FCIR. In 2018, WMFE and FCIR partnered on an investigative series about climate change and state government inaction. Green’s reporting for the series won awards from the SPJ Sunshine State Awards and the Florida Associated Press Professional Broadcasters Contest. In 2012, WMFE and FCIR partnered on a print and radio package about Big Sugar and government subsidies. Green’s reporting for that partnership won honors from the Green Eyeshade Awards, a journalism competition throughout the Southeast.

“WMFE is proud to partner with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting to shine a light on another important but often overlooked environmental issue in our state,” said Erika Pulley-Hayes, president and CEO of WMFE. “Amy’s immersive reporting and the voices and natural sounds bring this story to life for the listener and make the pressing issues of the River of Grass hard to ignore.”

DRAINED is reported and hosted by Amy Green, and edited by FCIR Executive Director Trevor Aaronson and WMFE News Director Matthew Peddie. Mix and sound design by Paul Vaitkus. Mac Dula, Jenny Babcock and Ryan Ellison provided additional production help. Cliff Tumetel also contributed. Special thanks to Johns Hopkins University Press.

About Amy Green

Amy Green covers the environment for WMFE News. She is an award-winning journalist whose work has been heard on NPR and seen in PEOPLE, Newsweek, The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor. She began her career at The Associated Press. Her book on the Everglades will be published in March 2021 by Johns Hopkins University Press. Green was raised in Florida and lives in Orlando with her 6-year-old daughter. Learn more and read her latest stories at wmfe.org/author/agreen

About FCIR

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit news organization supported by foundations and individual contributions. Founded in 2010, FCIR produces award-winning public-service journalism in partnership with traditional and ethnic news media in Florida and across the nation. For more information, visit fcir.org.

About WMFE

Community Communications Inc. is a locally owned, and operated, non-profit public media organization that operates 90.7 WMFE-FM, metro Orlando’s primary provider of NPR programming; 90.7-2 Classical; and 89.5 WMFV, public radio for The Villages, Ocala and surrounding counties. Listener-supported Community Communications has been serving the community since 1980 with trusted news and programming from a local, national and international perspective. Visit wmfe.orgfor more information.

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MEDIA INQUIRIES: Please contact Communications & Marketing Specialist Jenny Babcock at jbabcock@nullwmfe.org or 407-273-2300 ext. 112.

General Manager of WGCU, Rick Johnson, to retire

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA – WGCU General Manager Rick Johnson recently announced his intention to retire from that post on June 1, 2021.

Johnson’s career in broadcast media spans 52 years, with four decades and eight sets of call letters to his credit before he joined WGCU as GM 12 years ago.

In an email to staff and the WGCU Public Media Advisory Board Oct. 6, Johnson outlined his immediate and continuing vision for WGCU as assuming a greater role as the media outlet of record and public interest journalism in Southwest Florida.

Johnson’s tenure in public media includes PBS stations in Seattle and Albuquerque, followed by deep ties to Florida stations. Since January 1991, he has been involved with virtually every aspect of public media in Florida, in Tallahassee and Jacksonville prior to Southwest Florida and WGCU.

“Rick Johnson is one of public media’s outstanding leaders – not just in Florida but everywhere he has served,” said Patrick Yack, executive director, Florida Public Media. “He has been a thoughtful, engaging and inspiring member of the Florida Public Media Board and he was an exceptional chair. Always dedicated to our mission, Rick has left an indelible mark on our craft and our profession.” 

“Southwest Florida WGCU members have benefited from his vision and the execution of the outstanding team he assembled,” said advisory board chair Judy Bricker. “The station has realized its potential with Johnson at the helm and will now reach to a new and higher set of goals thanks to his continued vision.”

“Rick’s depth of experience will be sorely missed at WGCU, but he well deserves the time to begin his next chapter,” said Katherine (Kitty) Green, FGCU vice president, University Advancement, and executive director, FGCU Foundation.

A national search will ensue for his replacement.

Johnson concluded his announcement with this: “In addition to it having been an honor and a privilege it has also been a pleasure to work alongside all of you through the proverbial thick and thin to make WGCU one of the most successful, most-watched, most-listened-to, and most-well-supported public media organizations in the country.”

About WGCU

WGCU is Southwest Florida’s source for PBS and NPR. A member-supported service of Florida Gulf Coast University, WGCU provides educational programming that inspires, informs and engages our community. Serving all or part of 12 counties in south and Southwest Florida, with five distinct digital TV channels, two FM radio channels, two HD radio channels, and multiple websites, WGCU delivers national and international programming, and develops, produces and delivers relevant, informative and educational local programs to the region.  More information about WGCU is available online at WGCU.org, and by following us on Facebook at wgcupublicmedia, on Twitter @wgcu and Instagram @wgcupublicmedia.

WFSU Tallahassee Awarded CPB/PBS Ready to Learn Grant

Funding will support production of new educational content and local community engagement that equips young learners with key skills for success

Oct 07, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 7, 2020) – The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS have received a Ready To Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. The grant will provide $24,322,018 in year one of a five-year cycle* to fund CPB and PBS’ comprehensive multi-media learning and station engagement initiative, which will connect children’s media and learning environments to build key skills for success.  

The initiative will result in the development of new content that helps young children build vital skills to help them succeed in school and life, including functional literacy, critical thinking and collaboration — and shows them career options in age-appropriate ways. This will be done by producing multiple forms of content, some that show real-life examples of success by having adult role models share how they turned their childhood interest into their life’s work. It will also help parents, caregivers and communities support children’s learning and growth, with a goal of putting children on a path to success in learning, work and life.

CPB and PBS will work with experts in early learning and leading children’s media producers to create new PBS KIDS multiplatform content, including “Wombats!” (w.t.), produced by GBH, in which preschoolers will learn critical thinking and collaboration skills by following the adventures of three marsupial siblings as they explore their “Treeborhood.” In “Liza Loops” (w.t.), created and produced by Dave Peth, children ages 5-6 will encounter sociable city kid Liza, an aspiring inventor, and her fuzzy blue sidekick Stu as they invent solutions to help others in their neighborhood. As part of the grant, CPB and PBS will work with additional producers and partners on the third series with a literacy curriculum, in addition to digital games and podcasts, as well as resources to support family learning at home, in virtual spaces and in the community.

Today, children face a future filled with an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. The initiative’s focus on introducing children to the mindsets, knowledge and skills required to succeed in the workforce stems from a rapidly evolving global economy. COVID-19 has also impacted the workforce landscape, making it more important than ever to equip children with skills and ways of thinking that will allow them to successfully navigate their future.

“During these challenging times, public media continues to deliver value to the American people through our consistent commitment to early learners. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt education, public media is working to ensure that the nation’s children, especially those in low-income communities, have access to learning and are not left behind,” said Pat Harrison, President and CEO for CPB. “The funding by Congress and the Department of Education will provide vital resources to public media for the creation of research-based educational content, that will be offered free of charge and commercial free, to help children prepare to succeed in work and life.”

“PBS was founded on the belief that media can be a powerful force for education and inspiration. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we are committed to building on our strong legacy of high-quality educational media to meet the needs of young learners,” said Paula Kerger, President and CEO, PBS. “We are grateful for the vital support of CPB and the Department of Education, which allows us to serve millions of children across the country. Together with our member stations and producing partners, we will use every tool at our disposal to prepare the next generation for success in school and life.”

Local PBS stations will work with community partners, including schools, public libraries, museums, businesses, local Chambers of Commerce and other stakeholders, as part of a national network devoted to supporting the early learning needs of children in low-income communities. Critical national partners include the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Parents As Teachers.

The first phase of work will take place in 12 communities, including: Anchorage, Alaska (Alaska Public Media); Austin, Texas (Austin PBS); Birmingham, Alabama (Alabama Public Television); Detroit (Detroit Public TV); Las Vegas (Vegas PBS); Lexington, Kentucky (Kentucky Educational Television); Los Angeles (PBS SoCaL); Madison, Wisconsin (PBS Wisconsin); New York (WNET); Owings Mill, Maryland (Maryland Public Television); Pittsburgh (WQED); and Tallahassee, Florida (WFSU). Additional communities will be added during years 2-5 of the grant.

The Education Development Center (EDC) will lead a research effort to assess the success of the five-year initiative, with emphasis on the new content’s ability to build key skills and inspire children to explore the “world of work.” Project research will also provide new insights into the ways in which newer media and intergenerational engagement can support children’s learning. Data analytics will advance the understanding of how games can influence learning gains, and formative studies will drive informed content creation.

*Additional years of funding are contingent on Congressional appropriations.

About CPB
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally managed and operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.

About PBS
PBS, with its over 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches nearly 100 million people through television and over 28 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and its website, pbskids.org, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the Internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

About The Ready To Learn Initiative
The Ready To Learn Initiative is a cooperative agreement funded and managed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. It supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted to preschool and early elementary school children and their families. Its general goal is to promote early learning and school readiness, with a particular interest in reaching low-income children. In addition to creating television and other media products, the program supports activities intended to promote national distribution of the programming, effective educational uses of the programming, community-based outreach and research on educational effectiveness.  

Contacts:
Shana Teehan, CPB, steehan@nullcpb.org, 205-586-5751
Kayla Springer, PBS, kmspringer@nullpbs.org, 571-481-6668

The contents of this release were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. The project is funded by a Ready To Learn grant [PR/Award No. S295A200004, CFDA No. 84.295A] provided by the Department of Education to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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