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Sue Cross: Thinking and acting collectively to save the news

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“Collective impact initiatives go beyond the kind of editorial collaborations we usually see in journalism.”

In 2023, watch the collaborative reporting that has spread across journalism transform into something even more powerful: Collective action to save the news.

In recent months, we’ve seen the challenges to journalism spread, with more layoffs, more declines in advertising revenue and more propaganda pumped through social media masquerading as news.

We’re also seeing a far deeper, broader understanding of the need to save the news. Today, not only journalists and philanthropists but also public officials, chambers of commerce and business leaders, venture capitalists, academics, and individuals from many walks of life are coming together to restore and rebuild journalism in our communities.

The seeds are well planted for more collective action ahead as we enter the new year:

Three tech and self-described news nerds have formed what’s likely the first collective giving circle to fund investigative reporting, the Flashlight Collective.

In one Massachusetts town, the League of Women Voters and civic leaders are joining forces to find a way to revive local news coverage — and kickstart what would be at least the fifth nonprofit news startup in that state this year.

A humanities council in Virginia is working with the nonprofit news innovators from Foothills Forum, academics and others to convene a diverse group of minds to explore and support new solutions to providing local news.

Hundreds of news outlets across the country are just wrapping the fifth full season of one of the most effective consortiums in funding and reinventing journalism: the NewsMatch collective fundraising campaign, where $17.6 million from a handful of national funders has generated more than $202 million in mostly local funding for more than 300 news sites.

That collective campaign is spinning off regional efforts:  In Colorado, companies, foundations and individuals — along with NewsMatch — are gathering forces around #NewsCOneeds, collectively fundraising on behalf of 33 nonprofit and local news outlets.

And in three states thousands of miles apart, newsrooms covering immigrant communities — Documented, El Tímpano and Enlace Latino — ran their own joint marketing campaign within the NewsMatch campaign, raising awareness and launching an appeal to support news by, for and from recent immigrants.

Collective action is one form of collaboration: People and organizations working together toward a common goal or initiative. But these types of collective impact initiatives go beyond the kind of editorial collaborations we usually see in journalism. They are changing the systems that support the news, seeking to reverse the declines we’ve seen and build broad solutions that will restore news and create more equitable news access for millions of people.

These efforts often draw together institutions or individuals beyond those with obvious shared interests — people from different sectors and places, with different core needs and intents. Collective action is aligning many groups of people not just to work on one project of common interest, but to find ways to solve more complicated problems — like saving the news and finding new systems to support strong journalism.

It’s proving a powerful approach to solve the complicated challenges of reinventing a more inclusive, equitable news world for all of us. We will see more of these partnerships in the year ahead, and many communities will gain more news as a result.

Sue Cross is the executive director & CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit News.

Each year, Nieman Lab asks some of the smartest people in journalism what they think is coming in the new year. Here are their predictions for 2023.

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