More than 90 percent of newspapers in the U.S. are “small market,” with a circulation of 50,000 or less. These newspapers are often family-owned and remain trusted sources of news and information in the communities they serve.
They also remain economically viable because of the continued demand for their exclusive hyper-local coverage and their commitment to improving their local communities.
However, many of these media outlets have reached a crossroads. The individuals and families who nurtured these publications for decades are looking for new owners who will continue to publish news that holds the powerful accountable and maintain a strong community presence.
NewStart is a local news ownership initiative, created by West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media in collaboration with the West Virginia Press Association, that has a mission to recruit, train and support the next generation of community newspaper owners and publishers across the country.
Who are these new owners? They could be current college students who have an entrepreneurial flair. They could be current journalists who want to run their own publication. They could be journalists who have been caught up in the downsizing of newsrooms that has occurred across the country and want to start anew. Or they could be entrepreneurs with no journalism background who know how important journalism is for a healthy democracy and a strong community.
This one-of-a-kind fellowship program provides a comprehensive ownership transition plan that matches potential buyers with publications that want to sell, and offers extensive training for the new owners on how to manage, operate and grow their media properties. NewStart also is establishing a collaborative community of media entrepreneurs, who can share best practices and work together to create a sustainable model for local journalism.
The Media Solutions and Innovation program at WVU is open to more than just selected fellows. Anyone who has an interest in owning their own media outlet is encouraged to apply. The program is also available for current media outlets that would like to train rising stars in their organizations for future leadership positions. More information on enrollment can be found on the Reed College of Media website.
This community media accelerator is designed to strengthen local and regional news ecosystems to ensure community information needs are being met, while helping independent news media owners achieve long-term sustainability through digital transformation and adoption of new business models. This program will also help to enhance trust in the news media by building on the long-established relationship between local residents and their hometown newspaper.