From the editor
Tucson Sentinel reporting featured by Rural News Network
Institute for Nonprofit News program fosters collaborative reporting & expands distribution of stories from rural America
Rural Americans are among the most impacted by the decline of traditional newspapers. Across the country, hundreds of rural papers have been hollowed out and even shuttered in the last several years. Even where news outlets may still exist, their coverage may not reflect the diversity of rural populations today or go deep into the issues that disproportionately affect those regions, such as climate change, access to health care, and the economics of Native communities.
A new national collaboration that includes the Tucson Sentinel has formed to better provide coverage that reflects the wide range of rural residents and the issues important to them.
At the Sentinel, our mission-driven nonprofit newsroom covers the full scope of Southern Arizona's Borderlands, from the politics inside the metro Tucson area to the concerns of residents of Cochise County, Sonoita, Ajo and the Tohono O'odham Nation. Whether it's poking through public records at the courthouse, or digging into the desert dirt 100 miles from Tucson, you'll find Sentinel reporters watchdogging the story.
Thanks to dedicated grants from the Knight Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation and support from other funders, the Institute for Nonprofit News is expanding support for editorial collaborations across rural America through its Rural News Network.
Wednesday, INN is launching RuralNewsNetwork.org, a website featuring RNN's collaborative series as well as outstanding daily news stories pulled from the Tucson Sentinel and nearly 70 other nonprofit independent newsrooms across the 400-member INN Network.
Together, these news organizations seek to redefine current mainstream narratives of the experiences of the 46 million people who live in rural areas, a quarter of whom identify as people of color. To date, the consortium has produced five collaborative series centering rural voices, hired a dedicated editor, invested in local newsrooms, and facilitated republication of the series in more than 100 news outlets, including major national publications such as the New York Times.
"The MacArthur Foundation has a long history of supporting storytelling told by and for local communities to spark change and deeper understanding," said Michael Harvey, a program officer at the foundation. "RNN members are critical in the effort to redefine the news ecosystem locally and nationally. This new platform is an important step to shining a light on the nuances of rural communities, adding a vital but often underheard voice to the national discourse through trustworthy and sustained reporting."
RuralNewsNetwork.org will offer different experiences for different audiences. For news consumers, the website allows them to sort stories by state and topic – such as environment or education – and to find news outlets that address their interests.
For news publishers, the site curates high quality news stories they can reference and often republish. The ability to find and republish rural news stories is also provided by Rural Newswire, which INN members Grist and Daily Yonder recently launched alongside RNN.
In addition to the Sentinel, newsrooms participating in RNN include national outlets like ICT (formerly Indian Country Today), Open Campus and Capital B, statewide newsrooms like CalMatters and the Maine Monitor, and local startups such as Wisconsin's Door County Knock and California's Mendocino Voice. In Arizona, the Patagonia Regional Times joins ICT and the Sentinel among the participants.
The benefit of RuralNewsNetwork.org for philanthropists is that it allows them to research nonprofit news outlets covering rural issues, filtering not only by location and topic but by criteria that match their funding priorities, such as coverage area (health or water) and audience size (local or statewide).
"It's exciting to be able to bring larger newsrooms together with smaller ones who may have a great story but lack the resources to pursue it," said editor Alana Rocha, who oversees RNN collaborations and curates stories on the RuralNewsNetwork.org website. "Through our behind-the-scenes collaboration and, now, with this website, more stories will get written and more people will understand the realities of life in rural America today."
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