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The Herald receives grant funding and opportunity for technical assistance funds

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By GEORGE CUSTER/Editor  —  The phenomena that newspapers across the country are dying off is finally hitting home. Philanthropic foundations and private donors are realizing this plight. They are starting to step up efforts to bolster existing and new newsrooms, particularly nonprofit newsrooms.

A ripple is turning into a tsunami

The Herald didn’t start this trend. It took a lot of research by our Editor Emeritus, Doug Bates. He came to the conclusion that for-profit news printing is giving way to technology and, in particular, the web. The trend to digital nonprofit news has been happening everywhere and Oakridge just didn’t see it coming.

We here in Oakridge lost the Dead Mountain Echo, the local newspaper that had been around since the early 70’s, about a year before the Highway 58 Herald cranked up. The Herald had little idea of the wave of newspapers that were shuttering their doors forever. We had heard that a number of  large private equity firms were purchasing the larger metropolitan newspapers around the country and gutting them, primarily to increase the bottom line for their investors. Freedom of the press, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of our Constitution, is being sold to the highest bidder. Like cattle being auctioned off, only to be led to the slaughter house.

Fact: between 2001 and 2019, private equity’s ownership of newspapers has risen from just 5% to a whopping 23% of newspapers across the country. To put it more simply, large investment companies own one-quarter of the news being produced in America. One of the first areas of reporting these giant companies are axing – local and rural news reporting.

A silver lining may be on the horizon for newsrooms

The good news. Some of the largest foundations in America have awakened to this assault on democracy. They are seeing that rural news sites are fighting to keep their communities informed and connected. The Herald is now in the thick of that fight.

The Ford Family Foundation, headquartered in Roseburg, has awarded Highway 58 Herald a grant in the amount of $15,000 for capacity building. Also, The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, located in Vancouver, Washington, has announced that The Herald can apply for a Capacity Building Support award for up to $40,000.

Our ship hasn’t come in. However, it did get replenished at sea to keep the boat afloat while on its journey. Hopefully, we’ll be able to take a bit of a load off of our current staff and hire more reporters and contributors.

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