From Kyle Munson, President, Western Iowa Journalism Foundation.
I’m not here to romanticize one of the most important sounds of the last century: the reassuring thwap of a print newspaper hitting front doorsteps across America.
The format of credible local news isn’t my main concern. Like many of you, the vast majority of my news diet now is consumed through my smartphone. That’s fine. Scroll on.
Here’s what worries me: We still have doorsteps. No matter how much we disconnect ourselves from our neighbors in every other way — through distant and often partisan news sources, through remote work, through a growing army of Amazon Prime delivery vans — we still live in communities rooted to place and bound by local laws and ordinances. And I won’t apologize for romanticizing how much these tangible communities depend on the survival of quality local news that’s respected and supported by a critical mass of residents of every political persuasion.
This is the mission of our new Western Iowa Journalism Foundation: “Educate, inform, and engage residents throughout Western Iowa by supporting community journalism to ensure long-term access to accurate local news and investigative reporting.” As a nonprofit we join numerous local news philanthropies nationwide in the cause of adapting the local news model to better fit the 21st-century marketplace.
But we’re also unique in that we will directly fund and sustain the transformation of existing community newsrooms — local Main Street businesses — that our fellow Iowans have relied on for generations.
Our aim is serious and lasting infrastructural innovation, not a patchwork solution. We intend to make a real difference in our region and, through ongoing experimentation and collaboration, advance the cause of community journalism everywhere.
Our foundation formed in 2020 as an entirely independent nonprofit governed by its own board of directors (that I currently chair). As we support independent local newsrooms — initially those in Carroll, Jefferson, Storm Lake, and Denison — we won’t dictate their editorial decisions, and they won’t dictate our foundation’s work.
These newsrooms help build community by covering the full range of daily life. They exist to publish uplifting stories and unflinching criticism alike — their very ability to surprise and challenge their audience is fundamental to what makes for compelling journalism and what makes for stronger and more resilient communities.
The path ahead for a true common source of news in each of our communities demands that we’re more enlightened on all fronts, including greater inclusion of all voices and less kneejerk partisan division that serves only entrenched powers.
If we can’t literally be on the same page as our neighbors when it comes to trusting sources of local news, we’ll find it only harder to reach consensus when haggling over decisions at the local school board or city council meeting.
Please join us at the Western Iowa Journalism Foundation in our effort to preserve and strengthen credible community journalism and local news for generations to come.
Read Munson’s full column in the Des Moines Register here.
Learn more about the Western Iowa Journalism Foundation here.
And click here to make a difference today and support the foundation.
The Western Iowa Journalism Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Your donations are tax deductible.