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A holiday appeal to help support professional journalism from local nonprofits Somerville Media Center and Somerville Wire (Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism)

It’s tough to have a democracy without professional news outlets producing the carefully curated information people need to be engaged residents of their communities week in and week out. With major news corporations shutting down their local news operations—including Gannett’s remnant version of the Somerville Journal this year—it is falling to smaller operations to try to take up the growing slack of providing necessary news in the public interest. Which is an increasingly difficult task.

Many of the groups now performing this public service are nonprofit, as the old commercial funding models for news production have collapsed over the last quarter century. In Somerville, we have two nonprofit organizations that are producing news coverage and interviews week-to-week: the Somerville Media Center (a public access TV station) and the Somerville Wire (a municipal news service run by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism). 

Like most nonprofits, both groups are woefully underfunded. But Somerville does not have an existing community foundation to help them out. Which is why SMC and the Wire banded together early this year to form the new municipal foundation Somerville Media Fund.

The Fund provides a “one-stop” way for Somervillians to support both the Somerville Media Center and the Somerville Wire (as well as any new nonprofit news outlets that may start up in the city going forward) with your tax-deductible donations. Participating nonprofit news outlets (all of which have seats on the SMF board) get at least 75% of all money donated—which is split equally between them. The other 25% is held aside for future special project grants and to cover the basic overhead expenses of running a foundation like accounting and tax preparation.

So I’m writing to ask Somerville residents and friends of nonprofit journalism everywhere to donate to the Somerville Media Fund this holiday season

We gave out our first grants (for a total of $1,750) in July. The Somerville Media Fund board will send out its next grants to SMC and the Wire in January. Then we’ll have another fundraiser in June and give out more grants in July. And we’ll continue on that twice-annual funding cycle every year.

No donation is too small. But let’s see if we can raise more than the $2,400 folks provided last summer this time out. $5, $25, $50, or $500 individual and institutional gifts are all great and will help ensure that SMC and the Wire can provide more coverage of community affairs in the coming year. The more donors, the better for local journalism … and local democracy.

Thanks for anything you can spare. And don’t forget to help out our colleagues at the surviving local commercial newspaper Somerville Times, too, by buying ads in their pages. Very few local news outlets have it easy in these difficult times for journalism nationwide–no matter what their economic model. Your support for all the outlets reporting on our city will ensure that Somerville does become yet another “news desert”—a locality with no professional news organization left standing.

Jason Pramas is editor of the Somerville Wire, treasurer of the Somerville Media Center, and a board member of the Somerville Media Fund.

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