Hold on to Your Hat NH: Here’s InDepthNH.org’s Big Announcement

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InDepthNH.org is one of 17 founding members of the national Alliance of Nonprofit News Outlets. See story for link to our website.

InDepthNH.org Is a Proud Founding Member of ANNO, the Alliance of Nonprofit News Outlets

By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org

I am launching this column today to tackle a couple of issues I think are lacking in New Hampshire journalism.

First, I want to announce our organization’s involvement in a groundbreaking effort to get more major foundations and charities interested in the importance of not only our work, but other journalism sites across the country and here at home.

And second, I want to bring you behind the scenes of how nonprofit journalism works here in New Hampshire. In future columns, I hope to give you a glimpse of how we and others are funded, why it’s a tough line to walk when someone offers you money, and how journalism matters now more than ever. And I should mention, not just journalism, but good journalism, because there is a difference.   

First, InDepthNH.org, which operates under the nonprofit corporation, the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, has become a founding member of the Alliance of Nonprofit News Outlets (ANNO).

Check out ANNO’s mission and goals here: https://www.anno.news/

ANNO was spearheaded by Jason Pramas, executive director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and 16 other nonprofit news outlets across the country, including us: https://www.anno.news/blog/17-organizations-form-alliance-of-nonprofit-news-outlets

This is the BIG news that I hinted at last week. InDepthNH.org has been working with like-minded nonprofit news outlets across the country to shine a light on frustrations so many of us are facing and how we hope we can help turn around. We believe too much charity money has been wasted on shiny objects that do not help end the news crisis in the United States. Charity dollars are funding these shiny new objects, and meanwhile many reporters are simply leaving the field and less and less news is getting reported. I think we have more company spokesmen now than reporters in New Hampshire.

The Alliance of Nonprofit News Outlets (ANNO) is encouraging funders big and small to spend charity dollars on reporting news and running the local nonprofit news outlets – instead of wasting precious dollars on middlemen organizations and the shiny objects of journalism that will do nothing in the long run to save democracy.

InDepthNH.org is proud to be a founding member news outlet.

The founding ANNO members are: Boston Compass Newspaper; Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, Civil Eats, East Greenwich News, East Lansing Info, ecoRI News, InDepthNH.org, NancyonNorwalk, New Narratives, The Alameda Post, The Daily Catch, The Lens, The Nevada Independent, The Shoestring, The Sierra Nevada Ally, The Sopris Sun, and VoxPopuli.

“So, our Founding Document makes it clear that our new formation is fundamentally different from other coalitions of news nonprofits from its extremely horizontal and democratic structure to its dictum ‘no dues, no staff, no board, and no office.’ The spirit of the group is perhaps best summed up by the slogan on our website ‘Stronger Together,’” said Pramas.

“After a yearlong deliberative process aimed at increasing funding to our sector, 17 nonprofit news organizations from across the U.S. have banded together to launch a new mutual aid network, the Alliance of Nonprofit News Outlets,” he said in announcing our existence.

If it were not due to forward-thinking individuals who value journalism, our organization and many others would not exist.

It is thanks to many of you, our readers, who send in your donations large and small that keep us reporting and let us know you value what we do.

It is also due to people such as former state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark and her husband, Dr. Geoffrey Clark, who have recognized us time and again with grants, the most recent one a $25,000 grant to find a sustainable path to finance unbiased, nonprofit news, that will help us build the business end of InDepthNH.org. Sadly, Dr. Clark passed away on Jan. 8, but his gift lives on.

We haven’t yet found that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We have learned a lot in these past eight years that we believe will help real news grow and democracy shine, although most of the news these days shows that more newspapers are closing down and news deserts are flourishing, whether in the for-profit or nonprofit sectors.

Trust me, we haven’t been sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting for our ship – or even a rickety rowboat –  to come in. We work our fingers to the bone, but alas I have not succeeded in telling you what we are doing or what we really need to keep on growing.

But some recent events at the national and local levels have shaken me and shown me and our InDepthNH.org team how important it is to let you know what we need. Many of you have stretched your budgets to make sure we stay afloat, and I thank you.

When the New York Times outsources its sports department, and the jewel of nonprofit news outlets – The Texas Tribune – cuts reporters and eliminates its copy desk, we at InDepthNH.org know the business climate is extremely tough.

By sharing more of what is really happening in the industry, we are hopeful that New Hampshire foundations and philanthropists will come to our aid, along with the national foundations and philanthropists that we know are looking for new ways to help news outlets survive and thrive.

The goal is to rely less in the future on charity dollars. There is so much need in so many other sectors, and frankly, journalism is a hard sell in the charitable world, especially when you consider all the important causes competing with our request for a limited supply of charity dollars.

In the meantime, I am starting this new column to keep you apprised not only of what we are doing, but how you can help.

We could not do this without our reporters, including Paula Tracy and Garry Rayno and Damien Fisher, veteran journalists, and our columnists who work for peanuts in the hope of saving news for New Hampshire. I have to thank volunteers Bob Charest and Bev Stoddard who keep fighting the good fight with me for free.

The work continues, and from what we have learned from our efforts, building the business has become the most important work we do. The future of news in New Hampshire relies on having a strong financial model to power our way going forward. It is becoming more frightening to me every day how serious the problem is, with the decreasing number of journalists working on trustworthy, in-depth and investigative news in New Hampshire.

I am sad to say that we still haven’t reached our goal of having the staff to do the work. However, I have help working tirelessly on finding the path to sustainable news in New Hampshire.

Nancy West, Bob Charest and Bev Stoddart have researched the most successful nonprofit models around the country, focusing on the Texas Tribune and the VTDigger as examples that hold promise for New Hampshire. Anne Galloway built the VTDigger into a business with a $2.8 million annual budget with 32 employees. She started with $16,000 a dozen years ago when she was laid off from a Vermont paper.

We have been trained by the Texas Tribune in event planning, and we used the course to determine how best to advance our sustainable mission and create a workable plan forward.

Our New Hampshire Sustainable News Summit project produced four events that showcased the problem – the lack of local news – and we invited experts to discuss possible solutions. These included public Zoom sessions with Anne Galloway, Dan Kennedy and Jason Pramas and an in-person evening with author Gloria Norris, who serves on our board of directors.

The next step is to meet with philanthropists one-on-one to raise money and encourage them to become co-matchers for NewsMatch, the national fundraiser that we have participated in for the last four years through the Knight Foundation and others. This money will support the new business and reporting hires.

We started an obituary page so there will be one news site in the state without a paywall where everyone can afford to publish the story of their loved one’s life for an affordable fee.

We need to hire a full-time director to manage the business and free Executive Director Nancy West to focus on news reporting, along with Garry Rayno, Paula Tracy, and Damien Fisher and hire two part-time reporters.

We need to hire two part-time ad salespeople and a director of development who will be in charge of bringing in revenue from ads, obituaries, selling our stories, events, and working with philanthropists.

As we find what works to fund local news in New Hampshire, we will share the model through events and online webinars with all news outlets.

We have made great progress. Former Somersworth Mayor George Bald has joined our board of directors, as has former Agriculture Commissioner Steve Taylor, two people who respect what we have been able to build on a shoestring. George has already helped us meet with entrepreneurs who believe in what we do. And we have two more people who may join our board soon, along with those who have already helped so much – Gina Gilmore, Lucy Wyman, Gloria Norris, and Robin Mulcahy.

We hope to meet with New Hampshire philanthropists soon to show them the need and how they can help.

In all of the events we have done and will continue to do, we credit the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Geoffrey E. Clark and Martha Fuller Clark Fund for this remarkable gift that will keep on giving.

So many of you individually have helped us, along with the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and Northeast Delta Dental to name a few.

We want to bring you all along for this journey to the future of New Hampshire news. I can tell you: What a ride!  

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