For two days this week, Brian and I sat in a room of more than a dozen other journalists, all of whom were there for pretty much the same reason: to keep surviving in this increasingly inhospitable industry.
It’s true. The news business isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago. It’s barely the same as it was 10 years ago.
You’ve heard us say it. There are fewer and fewer reputable news outlets — particularly ones that are locally focused — doing the kind of work that holds the powerful accountable while reporting on its communities.
The skepticism and oftentimes outright hatred of the media is at an all-time high.
Political and cultural polarization makes our work even more difficult.
Staffs are low, pay is even lower and yet, the river of news is never-ceasing.
It’s honestly pretty damn exhausting.
But in the room at UNC-Chapel Hill this week, members of 10 brave news organizations met for the last time in person to track their progress over the last year as part of the university’s Table Stakes training program. Triad City Beat was one of them.
And the progress has been incredible to watch.
In the last year, we’ve been able to hire a full-time reporter (yay Gale!) thanks to a grant we got using our nonprofit fiscal sponsor. It’s the first time we’ve ever gotten grant funding. And then we got more.
To date, Brian has applied to more than a dozen grants this year and has secured about half of them. And those are huge wins.
We know that the news industry is changing. As Brian will tell you, it’s impossible to keep funding journalism — especially high-quality journalism — on ad dollars alone.
I personally think that journalism is a public good and thus should be nonprofit. But that’s a goal for another day, maybe.
In the last year we’ve also cut our print run in half. We publish in print every other week now instead of weekly. And that’s been a massive change for Brian and me. For him, it means more time trying to bring in money. For me, it means a break from the weekly grind of ensuring we have enough content to fill a paper and more time to turn breaking news.
Other outlets in our cohort have had huge wins, too. They’ve started special projects, delved into strong collaborations and delivered the kind of journalism that brings about change in places where change comes slowly.
And so, we continue to do the work.
Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, a lot of the times it feels unappreciated. Yes, sometimes it feels like we’re barely making a dent.
But when I zoom out and look at just what we’ve accomplished in a year’s time, it’s easier to see the wins.
And 2024 is just around the corner, where I believe more wins are waiting.
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