IRS grants nonprofit status to local organization for news

| 22 Feb 2012 | 02:05

    Chester - If you’re reading this, you’re among the 81 percent of Americans who continue to read their local newspaper. As Mark Twain once said, “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” The reality is, community news is an abiding human need and the 8,000 community newspapers in the country are far from dead. But news, whether it’s online, in print, or on a mobile device, is expensive to gather and publish and the availability of community news can no longer be taken for granted. Enter the Community Reporting Alliance, a news supporting organization that will bolster professional news reporting at the community level and help create new models of sustainable community-supported news. This week, the Community Reporting Alliance became official when the IRS granted its tax exempt 501(c)3 status. “We’re extremely pleased the IRS has given us approval as a nonprofit organization,” said Barbara Gref, executive director of the Community Reporting Alliance. “We’ve long believed that all local news can be best supported by many different stakeholders: local members, businesses and foundations. 10,000 fewer stories In the past five years, more than 50,000 news and news support jobs have been lost to layoffs and cutbacks. Roughly 300 newspapers of all sizes have folded. During this time, surviving newspapers reduced their investment in news gathering by an estimated $1.6 billion annually. “We figure that’s 10,000 fewer stories and news reports weekly on issues that affect the lives of real people,” said Gref, a journalist for 25 years and an adjunct professor of journalism. “Obviously, there’s a tremendous need for fresh avenues of support for news if we expect to have informed citizens and healthy democracies in the future.” The group’s founding board of directors includes First Amendment lawyer Laura Handman, Haitian-Times publisher Garry Pierre-Pierre, and Straus News CEO Jeanne Straus. Straus News, which publishes this newspaper and eight others in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, is providing initial support through seed funding and in-kind services. Alternative funding sources Nonprofit status will allow the Community Reporting Alliance to seek grants and accept donations. The Community Reporting Alliance is pursuing grants at the local and national levels to help pay for reporting and training of local news reporters. The Community Reporting Alliance was honored to be among a handful of organizations and entrepreneurs chosen this past summer to attend a Ford Foundation-funded specialized training seminar, Sustainable Journalism Start-ups, offered at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.