UVM launches national Center for Community News

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UVM launches national Center for Community News

Wed, 06/22/2022 - 12:47pm -- tim

New initiative seeks to address the crisis facing local news by partnering news outlets with colleges

Vermont Business Magazine The University of Vermont is launching a national initiative to support the critical role of local news media around the country and aid colleges in their efforts to help solve the crisis facing local news. The new Center for Community News is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and UVM College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) donors. The $400,000 initiative builds on the successful Community News model in Vermont, which brings students together with professional editors to provide news reporting at no cost to local news outlets.

“A vibrant democracy demands substantive and independent local sources of information,” said CAS Dean William Falls. “As news deserts expand and threats to the democratic process mount, the Center for Community News will help to build a stronger and more resilient future for local news around the country.” 

The mission of the Center for Community News (CCN) is to inspire and enable collaborations between local media outlets and students.

It will do so by:

1.     Building and maintaining a comprehensive database of academic-news collaborations in the U.S. 

There are dozens of academic and community news programs around the country today that are using creative solutions to help fill news gaps, train emerging journalists, and create a more sustainable economic news model for the future. CCN’s first priority is to compile a national database of such programs to help identify a menu of viable approaches. It will serve as a central connector and advisor to other schools and civic organizations that want to help solve the crisis of local news in their own communities. Academics, administrators and journalists who are involved in such programs are invited to fill out this form to be included and potentially get involved in future efforts. 

2.     Lending direct support to academic and news institutions.

With input from academic-news partnerships around the country, CCN will create a series of case studies and advisory materials for organizations that want to launch their own news partnership or expand existing efforts. CCN will work with colleges and civic leaders to help forge new relationships and identify strategies that can work for their students, news consumers, and community.

3.     Continuing to innovate the Vermont model.

The Center for Research on Vermont will continue to explore creative ways to grow the Community News model, from adding new partners to building a statewide content-sharing tool so that media outlets can share stories. 

4.     Providing citizen reporter trainings. 

UVM is already training citizens at every stage of life on the ethics, mechanics, and skills of responsible local journalism. These are individuals who are learning to write stories on local governance and elections, civil rights, and environmental issues. This work can serve as supplemental coverage for local newsrooms. UVM’s Community News Service (CNS) just graduated its third class of citizen reporters, in partnership with the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications in New Hampshire. AARP highlighted this program and its enormous potential in a recent feature. 

The Center for Community News was inspired by the success of CNS, which matches student reporters with professional editors to provide critical journalism to trusted newsrooms around Vermont. Since its launch in 2019, CNS reporters have produced more than 1,000 stories and collaborated with dozens of print, online and broadcast news outlets. It has been both a newsroom and a laboratory for experimentation in creative ways to address the challenges facing local news. 

“The Knight Foundation is proud to support the people and ideas at the forefront of promising new approaches to a changing news landscape,” said Duc Luu, Knight’s Director of Sustainability Initiatives/Journalism. “We are excited to see how the Center for Community News can organize and expand academic-news partnerships in other regions.”

In coordination with Knight Foundation, CCN will identify target regions in the coming months where it will focus its efforts. 

Why It Matters

The crisis in local news has profound implications for the function of our democracy. Since 2004, the United States has lost more than 2,100 newspapers, according to a report from the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Today, two thirds of U.S. counties have just one daily newspaper and more than 200 have no local newspaper at all. 

Local news is more than just a trusted source of critical information; it’s an essential ingredient in a healthy democracy. Research suggests that communities with dedicated news organizations report higher levels of civic ties and community engagementlower levels of political polarizationmore transparent and competitive elections; and better economic outcomes for residents

“The threat to local journalism has never been so dire,” said CCN Advisory Board Chair Meg Little Reilly. “But these seismic changes also present an opportunity today to reimagine a future for local news that is more resilient, more rigorous and more representative of our communities. It’s an urgent and exciting time to remake local news.”

“This is a time to engage our students and colleges in doing local reporting,” said Richard Watts, a senior lecturer in the College of Arts & Sciences and the founder of the Community News Service at UVM who will head the new initiative. “Universities have a responsibility to lead.”

About CCN

The Center for Community News at UVM is helping to connect student journalists at every stage of life with local news organizations to help build a world in which every community has access to reliable information by and for the people who live there. www.CenterforCommunityNews.com

About the University of Vermont

Since 1791, the University of Vermont has worked to move humankind forward. UVM’s strengths align with the most pressing needs of our time: the health of our societies and the health of our environment. Our size—large enough to offer a breadth of ideas, resources, and opportunities, yet intimate enough to enable close faculty-student mentorship across all levels of study—allows us to pursue these interconnected issues through cross-disciplinary research and collaboration. Providing an unparalleled educational experience for our students, and ensuring their success, are at the core of what we do. As one of the nation’s first land grant universities, UVM advances Vermont and the broader society through the discovery and application of new knowledge.

UVM is derived from the Latin Universitas Viridis Montis (in English, University of the Green Mountains).

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

As social investors, the Knight Foundation supports democracy by funding free expression and journalism, arts and culture in community, research in areas of media and democracy, and in the success of American cities and towns where the Knight brothers once published newspapers. Learn more at kf.org and follow @knightfdnon social media. 

6.22.2022. BURLINGTON, Vt. — University of Vermont