Local journalism is the heartbeat of our communities. It keeps us connected, informed, and aware of the issues that affect our daily lives. From school board decisions to city council meetings, it’s the medium through which we learn about local events, our communities and our neighbors, and it’s how we hold our institutions accountable. In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, however, national and international stories now dominate the news – often at the expense of important local stories and perspectives.

Earlier this month, our board member, Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds, hosted the inaugural CA Journalism Summit at Stanford University, where an impressive group of community foundations, journalists, and funders gathered to discuss the importance of supporting local news and collaborative journalism projects. Brie Griset Smith, SVP of Charitable Giving, also sat on the “Why is Local News a Priority?” panel.

Some eye-opening statistics underscore the importance of funding local journalism:

  • Newspaper Circulation Decline: Over the past 20 years, U.S. newspaper circulation has declined by about 50%, from 122 million in 2000 to 61 million in 2020. (Source: Pew Research Center)
  • News Deserts: Approximately 20% of U.S. counties have no local newspaper, creating “news deserts” where communities lack access to essential local news coverage. (Source: UNC School of Media and Journalism)
  • Local TV News Stations Cutting Staff: Local TV news stations have seen a 40% reduction in staff over the past two decades, leading to diminished coverage. (Source: Pew Research Center)
  • Decline in Local Radio News: Local radio stations have seen a significant decline in news programming, with the number of newsroom employees dropping by nearly 40% from 2004 to 2019. (Source: Pew Research Center)
  • Community Newspaper Closures: Since 2004, more than 2,100 community newspapers have closed or merged, leaving many areas without a dedicated local news source. (Source: UNC School of Media and Journalism)
  • Decline in Investigative Reporting: As newsroom budgets shrink, investigative journalism, which plays a crucial role in holding local institutions accountable, is among the hardest-hit areas.

Recognizing its vital role in informing and shaping our region, IECF is proud to offer resources to strengthen local journalism:

  • In 2022, Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds led the establishment of the Journalism Innovation Hub+ Fund at IECF to support local and regional journalism and media and build a pipeline of talent for the sector. The fund will provide vital support to communities affected by “news deserts” while amplifying community voices to bolster civic engagement and foster more active, informed communities.
  • In January 2023, the CIELO Fund at IECF granted $280,000 to programs supporting education equity, civic engagement, health access, economic mobility, and immigrant services in the Latino community. Recognizing the importance of sharing these stories, the fund awarded local news station, KVCR, $20,000 to launch IE Latino Voices, a weekly program featuring leaders of Latino-led and Latino-supporting organizations. Additionally, the Desert Sun – Coachella Latino Voices Initiative received a CIELO grant to spotlight Coachella Valley nonprofits in a bi-monthly series.
  • Also in 2023, The Desert Sun and IECF joined forces to bring back the Desert Scene and Giving section, a community-focused part of the Sunday newspaper that went on hiatus after budget cuts. Desert Scene and Giving returned in October 2023 to highlight nonprofit donors, volunteers, and their work, preview upcoming events, and cover local grant opportunities and leadership changes in nonprofits. The Desert Community News Fund was established to ensure the future of this section; all contributions are welcome.
  • For more than 15 years, IECF has been magnifying the stories of Inland Empire nonprofits through a partnership with the Press Enterprise. We employ local writers who interview recent grantees for our Spotlight Column, providing a means of bringing their important efforts to the forefront. Nonprofits, typically restricted by limited budgets, rarely have the funds to publicize their challenges and successes. These stories are often picked up by other news agencies and shared to a much broader audience.

By supporting and funding local journalism, we invest in the resilience, connectivity, and vitality of our neighborhoods, ensuring they remain well-informed and prepared to face the challenges of our ever-changing world. We invite you to join us in keeping local journalism alive and well in the IE! Visit our website to donate to any of the funds mentioned above and make a meaningful contribution to the future of communication in our communities.

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