These three startups are here to save local news in their communities

Three new startups are pushing back against the rise of "news deserts" and the pitfalls facing local journal...

Posted: Oct 1, 2018 10:44 AM
Updated: Oct 1, 2018 10:44 AM

Three new startups are pushing back against the rise of "news deserts" and the pitfalls facing local journalism.

The Colorado Sun, Block Club Chicago, and the Daily Memphian aspire to fill the voids in their communities left by shrinking staffs, budget shortfalls, and shuttered publications in local newsrooms.

All three projects are less than a few months old -- Block Club Chicago debuted in June, while the Daily Memphian launched September 17. Despite the financial concerns that often plague small outlets, the sites have received an outpouring of support from readers and sponsors. Block Club Chicago raised over $183,000 on Kickstarter, and the Daily Memphian raised $6.7 million.

"Journalism didn't fail," said Eric Barnes, president and executive editor of the Daily Memphian. "The business model behind journalism on a local level is what failed. And that was a mix of just changes that weren't foreseen and changes in the advertising world, the Internet, a bunch of really self-inflicted wounds in terms of putting so much content online for free. But none of that spoke to the importance, the quality, or the value of journalism itself."

Barnes, along with Stephanie Lulay of Block Club Chicago and Larry Ryckman of the Colorado Sun, which went live earlier this month, detailed their outlets' business models, areas of coverage, and plans for the future on this week's Reliable Sources podcast.

Listen to the whole podcast here:

The Colorado Sun and the Daily Memphian were both formed in response to layoffs -- for the former, at the Denver Post, and for the latter, at the Commercial Appeal, their editors told CNN's Brian Stelter.

"To me, the point was to protect local journalism and to save what I felt was the heart and essence of the Denver Post," said Ryckman, editor of the Colorado Sun and the former senior editor of news for the Denver Post. "The community would have lost to have seen these folks, some of them with two Pulitzer Prizes to their names, leave journalism. That is a loss not so much for journalists but for the community itself."

Lulay, co-founder of Block Club Chicago, said the site was formed after DNAInfo was shut down last November. Readers rallied around the outlet; while the Kickstarter campaign's goal was $25,000, over 3,000 backers pledged more than $183,000. A post on the page from March says that if the campaign exceeded $172,000, "we will be America's most successful local journalism campaign in Kickstarter history."

"That was so heartwarming to us to see how much Chicago readers really wanted to see this kind of news come back," Lulay said.

Block Club Chicago, like the Colorado Sun, receives support from Civil, a blockchain journalism startup.

Both Lulay and Ryckman stressed that the "journalism" aspect of their job is easy to navigate. What's more difficult is having to wear multiple hats in a new company.

"We are now also H.R. people," Lulay told Stelter of herself and her co-founders Jen Sabella and Shamus Toomey. "We are customer service representatives. We are grant writers. There's a lot of other things that go into running an organization of this size besides the journalism."

"I tell a story that when I was a kid, my parents owned a small business," Ryckman said. "My father was the CEO and the janitor. And that's sort of the position that I'm in at the Colorado Sun. You do what needs to be done."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 318894

Reported Deaths: 5561
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion43391855
Lake27599462
Allen18363299
Elkhart17474226
St. Joseph17071234
Hamilton13376169
Vanderburgh9839121
Tippecanoe880629
Porter844886
Johnson6556169
Hendricks6267158
Vigo618187
Monroe542850
Clark522877
Madison5153122
Delaware5014103
LaPorte474695
Kosciusko468540
Howard357977
Warrick329872
Floyd324978
Bartholomew323563
Wayne318074
Marshall308146
Cass302631
Grant282050
Noble261546
Hancock260355
Henry252837
Boone248754
Dubois242931
Dearborn222631
Jackson222534
Morgan215543
Knox189720
Shelby189556
Gibson189426
Clinton182121
DeKalb181632
Lawrence179748
Adams171022
Wabash168121
Miami166614
Daviess160144
Steuben150713
Fayette150034
Jasper147413
Montgomery146627
Harrison145524
LaGrange145031
Whitley140814
Ripley138515
Huntington130910
Decatur128243
Wells127930
Putnam127828
White127522
Clay126523
Randolph126121
Posey124116
Jefferson122916
Scott112320
Greene104653
Jay100713
Sullivan99216
Starke94021
Jennings88714
Fulton86419
Spencer8588
Perry83721
Fountain8078
Washington7837
Franklin71327
Carroll69613
Orange69028
Vermillion6444
Owen6317
Tipton58927
Parke5886
Newton56912
Rush5658
Blackford54012
Pike51619
Pulaski41115
Martin3645
Benton3553
Brown3514
Crawford3031
Union2752
Switzerland2605
Warren2542
Ohio2337
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 382743

Reported Deaths: 6274
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin51161671
Cuyahoga37222743
Hamilton30493372
Montgomery20518236
Butler15199148
Lucas14566417
Summit13933327
Stark9193206
Warren841976
Mahoning7530300
Lake710067
Lorain6690106
Clermont593651
Delaware572537
Licking564577
Trumbull5584147
Fairfield554464
Greene538066
Clark5218101
Allen494989
Marion476759
Medina471657
Wood4598107
Miami437568
Pickaway404048
Portage358972
Columbiana357698
Tuscarawas342667
Richland328539
Wayne327394
Mercer296047
Muskingum252510
Hancock245940
Ross244559
Auglaize236435
Darke232560
Erie230268
Putnam229449
Ashtabula228354
Geauga211851
Scioto200616
Union19668
Shelby194017
Lawrence193039
Athens19134
Seneca182919
Belmont170229
Madison163119
Sandusky157729
Preble156521
Huron155519
Defiance144823
Holmes140439
Logan133517
Knox131718
Fulton128726
Jefferson128613
Crawford126817
Washington125227
Ottawa124530
Clinton109115
Williams10799
Ashland107825
Highland103718
Brown10135
Henry101323
Hardin99719
Champaign9825
Van Wert97318
Jackson96212
Fayette92717
Morrow9202
Guernsey89314
Coshocton85215
Perry82912
Adams80313
Pike7661
Gallia76513
Wyandot73217
Paulding66511
Hocking64516
Noble62224
Carroll48810
Meigs39612
Monroe32321
Morgan2685
Vinton2246
Harrison2193
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 38°
Angola
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 37°
Huntington
Overcast
42° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 39°
Decatur
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 41°
Van Wert
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 41°
Mostly Cloudy Black Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events