It’s no secret, local journalism is not in a good place and it hasn’t been since companies like Google, Facebook and Craigslist siphoned off the industry’s major revenue generators.
However, media experts around Colorado are a beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
On Wednesday, the Colorado Media Project, Free Press, KGNU radio, the Longmont Observer and the Longmont Times-Call are hosting a public forum at the Longmont Museum to engage with the community and discuss how Longmont’s local journalism can be improved.
The first part of the forum, which will start at 6 p.m., will include short speeches from Melissa Davis, the vice president of strategic communications and informed communities for the Gates Family Foundation, Mike Rispoli and Madeleine Bair from Free Press, John Valencamp, the managing editor of the Longmont Times-Call and Loveland Reporter-Herald, Macie May of the Longmont Observer and KGNU’s Roffana Longo.
Following the brief speeches, the event will break out into smaller groups to discuss their vision for the future of media in Longmont.
“We’re trying to make the case that local news is a public good,” Davis said. “How do we participate in our democracy if we don’t have reliable, fact-based, unbiased, professionally reported news? Unfortunately, the business model for all local journalism has degraded to a point where the most profitable elements have been peeled off by commercial tech ventures. There’s a confluence of people who are talking about, ‘how do we solve this in a way that feels distinctively Longmont?’ It’s really up to the resident of Longmont to decide.”
Melissa Bair with Free Press said her organizations and other like it, including the Colorado Media Project, will not know what their next steps are until they hear from the community on Wednesday night. Following a similar event in New Jersey, Free Press helped write and lobby for a bill that established a Civic Information Consortium in 2017 and seeded it with $2 million to stimulate innovation and transformation of the industry to better meet community needs.
In 2019 Canada passed a $595 million, five-year package to support commercial and noncommercial journalism through tax incentives.
In Chicago, City Bureau initiated a program in which they recruit, train and pay highly engaged citizens to monitor local government and contribute to a communal pool of knowledge, essentially crowdsourcing the news.
According to a new study released by the Colorado Media Project on Monday, Colorado is one of only 15 states that don’t provide public funding for independent public media.
As a result, the Colorado Media Project suggested the people of Longmont could enact special districts that could help fund local media through taxes. Scott Converse, the co-founder of the Longmont Observer, suggested just that to Longmont Town Council in May. Other options could include lobbying the state legislature to create a state fund that could issue grants, or an influx of cash could come through tax-free donations.
“There’s a lot of exciting experimentation going on,” Nancy Watzman, the director of the Colorado Media Project said. “People are starting to say this isn’t just going to happen we have to make it happen. So the need is great and dire, but there’s also this new found spark of conversation and interest and even investment.”
If you go
What: Local Voices for Local News
When: Wed., October 16, 6 to 8 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.; light refreshments will be served)
Where: Longmont Museum, 400 Quail Rd, Longmont