Somerville Media Center and BINJ join forces to create municipal foundation to support nonprofit community journalism
There can be no democracy at any level without strong journalism produced in the public interest. Yet here in Somerville, as in communities across the nation, we are on the verge of losing our professional local news outlets.
In the interest of stopping that looming crisis, the Somerville Media Center and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism are pleased to announce the launch of a new foundation: the Somerville Media Fund. We are writing today to ask you to be founding supporters of this first-of-its-kind initiative. Help us to rebuild our city’s increasingly fractured news landscape by donating whatever you can at somervillemedia.fund.
The mission of the Fund is to provide regular grant support to independent nonprofit local news organizations that cover Somerville, MA in the public interest and teach Somerville’s children and the Somerville public-at-large basic journalism skills and media literacy skills—educating them about the importance of journalism to the maintenance of our democracy. Your help ensures the continuation of local news production in Somerville while helping maintain an audience for that news going forward.
Practically speaking, this effort is the result of over a year’s hard work by the two Somerville-based nonprofit organizations that currently provide professionally-produced community journalism as part of our mandates.
The Somerville Media Center is a digital makerspace giving you the tools to tell your story. SMC supports and creates community-driven media through low-cost education, production resources, and distribution on cable television and the web.
SMC is independent, supported by grants funding, through revenues derived from cable television franchise fees and your generous help. Founded in 1983, SMC is the home of Somerville Community Access TV, the oldest access television station in Massachusetts, which hosts the oldest continually-produced cable access show in the US. SMC’s television producers, its podcasters and radio producers on Boston Free Radio, along with its Youth Program all guard the right to free speech, the right to know and the right to form a community of curious artists.
The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (sponsor of the Somerville News Garden project and its Somerville Wire news service) supports the development and production of independent news in Massachusetts. Founded in 2015, BINJ achieves its mission by: providing organizational support to community publications; running reporting collaborations and civic engagement initiatives; training promising journalists; and producing bold independent journalism.
In 2019, the Somerville News Garden project was created out of an abundance of concern by BINJ staff that the rolling collapse of the local news industry nationwide was reaching crisis levels in Massachusetts cities and towns over the first few years of our organization’s existence. They chose this diverse, forward-thinking city of 81,000 next to Boston as a manageable testing ground for methods and practices aimed at reversing the collapse of a local news ecology. And set themselves to working with Somerville residents and civic organizations to create a replicable model that municipalities around the nation can use to rebuild their news apparatuses.
Coming out of the three-year community organizing process that has been integral to Somerville News Garden’s development (see this recent Somerville Wire editorial for more background), the Fund seeks to provide a one-stop donation portal for everyone interested in helping pay for the production of independent news content that gives them the information they need to make the decisions that affect their daily lives at home, work, school, play … and at the ballot box.
The Somerville Media Fund is an IRS 501(c)(3) foundation with a five-person initial board: Michael Capuano, Alain Jehlen, Mary Ellen Myhr, and the authors of this missive. All donations are tax-deductible and 75% of all money raised will be split evenly between BINJ and SMC. In the future, any new nonprofit independent news organizations that launch in Somerville can apply to join the Fund and equally share the grants the foundation will disburse every six months once accepted as member-organizations.
Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from Somerville residents and interested readers from all over at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll be holding this first SMF fundraiser throughout April; so donate what you can and keep journalism alive in Somerville! The democracy you save may be your own …
Prefer to donate by check? Make it out to Somerville Media Fund, Inc., 90 Union Square, Somerville, MA 02143.
Kat Powers is executive director of the Somerville Media Center and former editor of the Somerville Journal. Jason Pramas is executive director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, editor of the Somerville News Garden’s Somerville Wire news service, and treasurer of the Somerville Media Center board of directors. Both are longtime journalists and educators.