Brenda Mann Harrison

Brenda Mann Harrison

Journalism funds offer new way to help pay for local reporting

Tax-deductible contributions support journalism crucial to a vibrant democracy.

By Brenda Mann Harrison

EVERETT — Change is part of my every day. No doubt, you are familiar with change too. If we’ve learned anything over the past two years of the pandemic, it’s that everything can change – and then change again.

Change isn’t always easy. Sometimes it causes angst and drags us kicking and screaming with it. Sometimes, change is a welcomed relief or a wonderful surprise.

There’s a sign on the ground floor below The Daily Herald offices that proclaims: Fall reminds us change is beautiful. I first saw that saying on a day I was pondering how to respond to a reader who asked why The Daily Herald needed donations for its journalism funds when she had just paid for her newspaper subscription. She asked: Isn’t that enough? Once upon a time it was. But things have changed.

The reality is this: newspapers can no longer operate on the revenue earned by subscriptions and advertising, especially with rising costs. It’s a change that hit hard in the past decade with the proliferation of online news content as well as the unfair practices of the world’s largest technology companies to reuse local news’ content.

At the end of last year, total newspaper revenue in the United States dropped by nearly 70%, according to a 2020 report that looked at the threats facing local journalism. The drastically shrinking revenue is wreaking havoc on local journalism. More than 2,100 newspapers closed their doors across the country between 2004 and the start of the pandemic. Since then, another 80 or more have gone out of business.

Those that survive have drastically cut their staff. A recent Pew Research Center report shows most newsrooms have lost more than a quarter of their workforce. In just seven years, The Daily Herald dropped from 209 employees to just 55 in the Everett office and 44 at its Paine Field printing plant, according to a historical look back on the newspaper by retired columnist Julie Muhlstein.

Having a smaller staff at The Daily Herald makes it challenging to report all the news our community deserves to know. How can you dedicate a reporter to spend months investigating an important story when there are other critical issues to cover, like what the city council is doing and the decisions facing your local school board? Decisions like that are akin to like playing a complicated board game where you need to cover a vast territory but have a limited number of pieces.

To continue serving the vital role as your independent local newspaper, The Daily Herald is looking at alternate ways to fund the work that is crucial for a vibrant community and healthy democracy. Newspapers across the country are doing the same because the consequences of a skimpy newsroom staff or no newspaper at all are alarming. To name just a few: local civic engagement declines and polarization increases.

To keep local journalism strong for our community, The Daily Herald established three funds that pay for reporting we would not otherwise be able to do, including investigative journalism, environmental and climate change reporting, and stories about the challenges facing working families.

These funds, established in collaboration with nonprofit organizations that serve as our fiscal sponsors, allow our community to make tax-deductible contributions that support essential local journalism. All donations go directly to the nonprofit fiscal sponsor, which ensures your money is used by The Daily Herald as intended.

That brings me back to the sign with the pithy saying about how change is beautiful.

It’s been a big change for The Daily Herald to establish journalism funds and ask for your support. You have responded generously to this new way of doing things, confirming that our reporting is worth supporting. And that is beautiful.

Learn more about The Daily Herald’s journalism funds and how you can support localjournalism that benefits us all: heraldnet.com/donate.

Brenda Mann Harrison is the Herald’s journalism development director. She would love to talk with you, your organization, or business about supporting local journalism. Interested? Have questions? Email brenda.harrison@heraldnet.com or call 425-339-3452.

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