More than 50 local newsrooms launched during the pandemic – Poynter – Poynter – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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The pandemic changed the news business and, in a lot of ways, not for the better. It accelerated layoffs. It hastened the end of more than 100 news organizations. It led a handful of newsrooms losing their actual newsrooms.

But in some communities, the pandemic also clarified the value of reliable information. 

More than 50 local newsrooms launched in the United States in 2020 and 2021. Nearly as many local newsletters started publishing in that time. We found them in 27 states and Puerto Rico. 

As they did before the pandemic, the majority of digital startups sprang up around major metro areas, said Penny Abernathy, visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. That happens thanks to better access to for-profit and philanthropic funding. 

But Abernathy has been excited to see newsrooms launching in rural areas, including The Border Belt Independent in North Carolina. 

Among all the negative trends Abernathy and I have been comparing notes on since 2020, she’s spotted a few positive trends, too.

“I think there was an acknowledgement among news consumers that local news is important. The pandemic brought that home in ways nothing else had.”

There’s also been an increased awareness that communities that have been historically underserved by the news are currently underserved by the news. This list includes projects that cover immigrant, Black and LGBTQ communities.

One more thing Abernathy’s noticing: a commitment and excitement about local news amongst her students.

“Now there’s a real understanding of how important local news is to the quality of our everyday lives, and that gives me tremendous hope for the long term.”

This list contains every new newsroom I could find that launched in 2020 and 2021. I used member lists from Local Independent Online News, the Institute for Nonprofit News and The American Journalism Project, among others. There’s a section on local newsletters, which are also plentiful, including from Substack and Meta’s Bulletin. And there’s a handful of national newsrooms and newsletters at the bottom. I expect I missed some, please email me and let me know which ones and I’ll add them here.

After spending a few weeks building this, here are some things that stand out to me:

  • In many states, only one newsroom launched, but five states had quite the year. In Georgia, New Jersey, Texas, Washington and Florida, four newsrooms launched in each.
  • Five newsrooms cite the closure of the local newspaper as the reason for their opening. This is from The Record North Shore in Wilmette, Illinois: “When 22nd Century Media ceased operation in March 2020, credible local news was ripped away from tens of thousands of suburban readers. Three of the company’s editors soon united with a common goal to restore responsible community reporting to Chicago’s suburbs, starting with the North Shore.”
  • Seven newsrooms include their plans to work with and for specific communities. This is from PW Perspectives in Dumfries, Virginia: “For too long, the minority communities of Prince William County have not had the voices we deserve. For too long, our county has been governed by hate. Through this anti-racist media outlet, we will elevate the voices of Prince William County’s silenced minorities. Here, you will find news, opinions, and stories relating to the Black, Latinx, Muslim, and immigrant communities. These are the voices of Prince William County.”
  • Nearly every site included here had an about page, making it easy to see quickly a list of values, sometimes an origin story and a staff list. That might seem basic, but it’s something many long-established newsrooms still fail at.

This list isn’t meant to be the matching bookend to our list of newsrooms that closed. They’re different in many ways, including staff sizes, mediums and mission. After two rough years, though, it does show something that’s easy to miss. 

Local journalism hasn’t quit. 

Here are more than 50 newsrooms that launched in 2020 and 2021:

Name: Arkadelphian

Location: Arkadelphia, Arkansas

About: “Covering the good, the bad and the ugly in SW Arkansas since 2021.”

Name: Asheville Watchdog

Location: Asheville, North Carolina

About: “Asheville Watchdog is a free, local, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization. It was founded in 2020 by veteran professional journalists and media executives living in Asheville, North Carolina. Everyone on staff is a volunteer. Our mission is to inform and engage the citizens of Asheville and surrounding communities by providing fair, factual and reliable in-depth news stories about local government, institutions, issues, and people.”

Name: Atlanta Civic Circle

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

About: “Our mission is to inform the public on the most critical issues facing metro Atlanta by providing in-depth reporting and presenting possible solutions with opportunities for civic engagement online and in the community.”

Name: Black By God

Location: West Virginia 

About: “… BLACK BY GOD | The West Virginian (is) an emerging news and storytelling organization centering Black voices from the Mountain State. Our name is a riff on the colloquial phrase West ‘by God’ Virginia that claims a unique place in central Appalachia.” 

Name: Bloomfield Information Project

Location: Bloomfield, New Jersey

About: “The Bloomfield Information Project is a community news service dedicated to making our community more informed, engaged, and resilient. We launched in March of 2020 in response to Bloomfield’s acute need for news and information at the start of the pandemic. Our goal is to understand your vision for Bloomfield and provide the information, context, and connection you need to make that dream a reality. We’re part reporter and part community advocate. And we’re entirely dedicated to bringing people together to make our community a better place.”

Screenshot, Border Belt Independent

Name: Border Belt Independent 

Location: Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties in North Carolina

About: “The Border Belt Independent is a nonprofit, online news site that reports on issues in Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties in southeastern North Carolina with a focus on poverty, health, mental health, adverse childhood experiences, race, education, and the economy.”

Name: Boulder Reporting Lab

Location: Boulder, Colorado

About: “To provide the people who live, work, learn and play in and around Boulder, Colorado, with high-quality, trustworthy, local-first reporting and essential information to make sense of issues and events happening around them, navigate their lives and build community.”

Name: The Buckeye Flame

Location: Ohio 

About: “The Buckeye Flame amplifies the voices of LGBTQ+ Ohioans to support community and civic empowerment through the creation of engaging content that chronicles our triumphs, struggles, and lived experiences.”

Name: Canopy Atlanta

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

About: “Canopy Atlanta is a community-led nonprofit journalism project founded in 2020. We choose, report, and present stories with Atlantans, redefining who journalism is by and for. Our mission is to equip metro Atlantans to report in collaboration with experienced journalists about the issues their communities care about most. We tell stories that directly respond to neighborhood needs, partner with existing community information systems, and build neighborhoods’ capacity to keep obtaining information from public records, officials, or archives.” 

Name: Clayton Crescent

Location: Jonesboro, Georgia

About: “The Clayton Crescent was born of a critical need to serve a longtime news desert when COVID-19 forced the county paper to lay off nearly all of its already tiny reporting staff, including Robin (Kemp, executive editor and CEO). When she got the news, Robin walked into her home office, found a website template, and kept on reporting — even though she was not drawing a paycheck. Using what little money she had, as well as some modest donations from family, friends, and area residents, Robin put together the basics of The Clayton Crescent from scratch, handling all the reporting, production, social media, technical support, and business matters by herself.”

Screenshot, Colorado News Collaborative

Name: Colorado News Collaborative

Location: Colorado state

About: Our mission is to be a local media resource hub and ideas lab that serves all Coloradans by strengthening high-quality local journalism, supporting civic engagement, and ensuring public accountability. … COLab helps more than 160 news outlets across Colorado … report important stories they couldn’t do alone. We help communities find better ways to build trust with their news outlets. And we help strengthen media business models so those news outlets can serve those communities long into the future.

Name: The Current

Location: Savannah, Georgia

About: “The Current is an inclusive nonprofit, non-partisan news organization which provides in-depth watchdog journalism for Savannah and Coastal Georgia’s communities.”

Name: Dallas Free Press

Location: Dallas, Texas

About: “Our nonprofit journalism amplifies voices in disinvested Dallas neighborhoods and explores solutions to our city’s systemic inequities.”

Name: Deep Indigo Collective

Location: Waxahachie, Texas

About: “Deep Indigo Collective is a nonprofit, independent news organization committed to the use of visual storytelling as an essential tool in reporting on the most urgent issue of our lifetime. Our mission is to provide truthful visual documentation informing discussion around climate change and environmental issues.”

Name: Eden Prairie Local News

Location: Eden Prairie, Minnesota

About: “Eden Prairie Local News (EPLN), is a nonprofit, non-partisan, citize

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