The erosion of local journalism in the US is well documented. According to a Brookings institution report from 2019, ahead of the pandemic, “Over 65 million Americans live in counties with only one local newspaper—or none at all.”
Today, the largest city in KRPS’s Four State coverage area, Joplin, has one daily newspaper, the Globe Joplin. Joplin readers-supported as many as three during the city’s mining heydays. (News-Herald and the Daily Herald)
Independent, nonprofit online-only journalism outfits like the Missouri Independent have been popping up throughout the US to fill the void of consolidation and layoffs in the newsgathering industry.
That includes the Springfield Daily Citizen, which launched last week in Springfield, Missouri.
The publication may be new, but the reporters and editors covering the city are anything but, according to President and CEO David Stoeffler.
“Everyone of our journalists has ten or more years experience, has some ties to the local area, and a part of our core is that we care about the future of this community, we’re invested in it, we live here.”
Prior to joining the SGFC, Stoeffler had a 40-year career in journalism, including a five-year stop at the Springfield News-Leader. (2010-2014)
Upon visiting the Daily Citizen’s staff page, many of the reporters and editors graduated from Missouri State or another university in Missouri.
Missouri State now has three non-profit media companies on campus, Ozark Public Television, and Springfield’s NPR station, KSMU, and now the Citizen.
Last October, the Missouri Board of Governors approved a five-year accommodation agreement for the nonprofit. According to Stoeffler, regardless of where the Daily Citizen’s offices are located, it remains independent.
“We are independent. We are not operated by Missouri State. They are not involved in our news decisions. KSMU is also housed here. Their employees are university employees. But they’re independent, free to pursue any stories that they want to pursue. If they find a story that is critical of the university, they’re free to publish it, and it’s the same for us.”
Visit the Citizen’s website, and you’ll find a collection of stories concerning the pandemic, the latest developments on the redesign of the Springfield flag, and the retirement of an Executive Director of a local nonprofit, among many others.
According to Stoeffler, there are three pillars to the Citizen’s coverage.
“Number one, in-depth coverage of local issues… for instance, a story about women in the workforce. And the number of women leaving the workforce during the pandemic. Another key part is what I call a sense of place. Stories about arts and culture, outdoors, and recreation… then finally we are doing some daily news coverage.”
Non-partisan, nonprofit local journalism publications like the Daily Citizen are rising in numbers across the US. According to an article by the Knight Foundation published in December of 2020, membership in the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) increased by more than 25% to more than 300 nonprofit news organizations.
The article notes that nonprofit newsrooms’ bottom lines weren’t as affected by the pandemic because they rely less on advertisements.
In addition, locally owned and operated nonprofit news sites, like public radio stations, allow for everything from large one-time to monthly donations to be written off on the donor’s taxes.
The resurgence of local journalism could be happening right before our eyes, just as many were ready to write off the industry altogether.