Municipal news service can run for another few months, now accepting applications for a reporter gig
Great news! Thanks to the 40 Somerville residents who donated the $5,000 we needed, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism has met our goal to restart publication of the Somerville Wire news service for another few months.
This is the signal we’ve been waiting for. It was the first time we asked Somervillians for direct support for the Wire and we are extremely excited that folks answered the appeal.
I am therefore announcing a call for applications for a quarter-time reporting gig with the Somerville Wire. Experienced community journalists, especially those of you who have covered Somerville before, are encouraged to send links to your resume and three clips to me at email@example.com. The position is funded for four months (and hopefully longer depending on how fundraising goes).
The new reporter will start mid-March as a contractor for the Somerville Media Fund, the municipal foundation that BINJ spun off last year to support the production of nonprofit news in Somerville.
Because after consulting with my BINJ colleagues (Chris Faraone, John Loftus, and Linda Pinkow) and the Somerville Media Fund board (Mike Capuano, Alain Jehlen, Mary Ellen Myhr, Kat Powers, plus me), our plan is to move the Somerville Wire from BINJ’s IRS 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit sponsoring organization, Massachusetts Media Fund, to the Somerville Media Fund—itself a tax-deductible nonprofit sponsoring organization—over the next couple of weeks. BINJ will then transfer the $5,000 we raised for the Wire over to the Somerville Media Fund. Future donations to the Wire will be made to SMF rather than BINJ (via MMF).
That will do two things: 1) It will ensure that the Somerville Wire is sponsored by a locally-focused foundation whose board members live and/or work in its community-of-interest, and 2) It will provide a new and much clearer mission for the Somerville Media Fund … sponsoring the Somerville Wire.
During its first year of operation (2022), the Somerville Media Fund board noticed that the foundation’s original mission to support the production of local news by any Somerville nonprofit that published it wasn’t resonating with Somervillians. In its January meeting, the Fund board decided
to change that mission to simply sponsoring the Somerville Wire when I told fellow board members about how fast BINJ was raising money for the news service. In January, no less. A month that nonprofit funding advisors always say is the worst time of the year to raise money, following the Thanksgiving through Christmas “giving season” as it does.
Transitioning the Somerville Wire over from BINJ to the Somerville Media Fund will be simple. The Wire’s web page will be moved from the BINJ website to the SMF website and the somervillewire.news URL will be pointed at the SMF page. Eventually the Wire will have its own website, but it’s too small an operation for that right now.
Speaking of which, I will effectively be volunteering as Wire editor and bookkeeper in support of the new reporter. Which is the best plan for now because the Wire is not out of the fiscal woods yet. Not by a long shot.
Somervillians donated enough to make BINJ and SMF believe that there’s sufficient public support to restart the Wire, yes. Now Somerville Media Fund’s goal will be to see if Somerville residents, businesses, and nonprofits are ready to help raise not only the other $10,000 that will help us keep the quarter-timer reporter we’re about to hire on for a year, but also the $50,000-100,000 a year budget that will ultimately be necessary to make the Wire a permanent feature of the municipal “news ecology” (as we say in the journalism industry). Because that’s roughly how much it will take to pay a full-time editor, a full-time reporter, and several freelance journalists (or at least a full-time editor/reporter and freelancers) and turn the Wire into a going concern capable of serving a city of 81,000 people with the news and views its residents need to stay up-to-date on local issues affecting their daily lives.
And that’s why we’re calling a Zoom meeting in a couple of weeks with all interested Somerville residents who just donated to the Somerville Wire—together with the full Somerville Media Fund board—to discuss what kinds of issues they’d like to see the Wire cover … and, critically, ask them to connect us with friends, family, and co-workers (as well as leaders of any forward-thinking local companies and foundations they know) who might also be interested in donating to the Wire.
It has got to be all hands on deck to make the Somerville Wire go. Either that or we’ll run it for a few months and then see it fade away again for lack of funds.
But from where I’m sitting, prospects look good for community members coming through and helping raise the budget that the Wire needs to be a robust local news outlet for years to come.
Thanks to everyone who has supported the Somerville Wire to date. Let’s see if we can expand your ranks to the level needed to provide the city with all the news it needs, week to week, rather than just filling in the gaps.
Image credit: “Exclamation mark” by Jelte on Wikimedia Commons. Public domain. Collage with exclamation mark symbol and Somerville wire logo by Jason Pramas for the Somerville Wire.
Jason Pramas is the editor of the Somerville Wire. He is also executive director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, assistant clerk of the Massachusetts Media Fund board of directors, and treasurer of the Somerville Media Fund board of directors.