Buffeted by steep declines in advertising and circulation, hometown journalism has become an endangered enterprise with 2,100 newspapers closed since 2004 and news deserts in 200 counties, a trend that a Lancaster County initiative seeks to counter.
The Lancaster County Local Journalism Fund, newly launched by the Steinman Foundation in partnership with the Lancaster County Community Foundation, plans to award grants to local organizations engaged in investigative and public interest journalism and in media literacy.
Seeded with a $500,000 contribution from the Steinman Foundation, the fund will seek additional support from donors during Friday’s Extraordinary Give. Donations will be tax deductible.
According to its mission statement, the fund “will ensure the people of Lancaster County continue to be informed, engaged and empowered by independent local journalism.”
An independent, seven-member board of managers that includes prominent journalists and community leaders will evaluate grant applications and award those they judge worthy of funding, said Lauren Frick, vice president and corporate secretary of Steinman Communications, the parent company of LNP | LancasterOnline. The size of grants has yet to be decided.
The fund, established as a limited liability company, will operate under the Community Foundation’s umbrella, making contributions tax deductible, said Tracy Cutler, the Community Foundation’s executive vice president. It was modeled after the Philadelphia-based Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
“Local journalism shines a light on important topics and knits the community together,” said Shane Zimmerman, executive vice president of Steinman Communications. “Without it, we grow farther apart and are less aware of what’s going on with friends, neighbors, schools and municipalities. As we lose touch, we become less effective overall as a community.”
The fund will help to keep local journalism alive in Lancaster County, he said.
Board members include Steve Falk, a Lancaster County native who is CEO of California-based Sonoma Media Investments, and Colby Itkowitz, a Manheim Township High School graduate who is a reporter for the Washington Post.