As more local news organizations close their doors and news deserts pop-up throughout the country, LION Publishers and News Catalysts want to create a solution. Together, they have launched the Tiny News Collective, an initiative that will provide the tools and resources to help people build sustainable news organizations.
According to Aron Pilhofer, director of News Catalyst, the idea for the collective developed organically between conversations among media professionals on the organization’s board and its advisors. In speaking to founders of very small news organizations, they found that the industry’s definition of small was not small enough. While there is support for small newsrooms of about 10 people, there is none available for newsrooms of one or two, which the initiative wants to offer.
“It’s about equity and renewal,” Pilhofer said. “It’s about seeding news organizations where they are desperately, desperately needed, and providing all the support and protection they need to grow and succeed.”
To do that, the collective will provide industry-standard technology, like a complete publishing system based on Google Docs and Google Workspace; a full accounting and fundraising suite from MonkeyPod; and a local advertising marketplace from Letterhead and WhereBy.Us. Additionally, it will provide training curriculum led by LION, payroll services, legal assistance and more.
André Natta, principal for Urban Conversations and board chair, told E&P that a survey of digital publishers helped them know what to offer participants. He also shared that they intend to make these resources available for $100 a month because they want to make it affordable.
Although formal applications have not yet open, the collective has been accepting interest forms and nominations. The plan is to launch 500 news outlets—10 by this spring and 490 over the next three years. Pilhofer also explained that initially, one or two founders would be the limit for an accepted news outlet, but that does not mean they cannot hire more staff if they wish to do so.
According to their website, the collective is looking for “anyone interested in building place-based local news in areas un- or underserved by the current news ecosystem.” The group is especially interested in founders that come from backgrounds “historically and systematically shut out of media ownership,” which Natta said are Black, Indigenous and people of color.
“Those living in smaller communities and neighborhoods that only seem to receive attention when something is happening to them and less so when there’s good or important news about them,” he explained. “Those who did not go to school for journalism per se but who have a story to tell and a community to serve.”
When asked if there were any concerns in letting non-journalists run a local news website, Natta said that sometimes those people “provide the best news and information for a community.” Pilhofer added that “you become a journalist by doing journalism.” But that is also why the group will offer a training curriculum, he said.
For more information about the initiative and to apply, visit tinynewsco.org.