Vince Dice is the editor of Gig Harbor Now, a nonprofit news organization in Gig Harbor, near Seattle.
His publication is celebrating its first birthday this week and he has interesting story to tell, that sums up many trends with local news in 2022.
For many years, Vince was connected to a newspaper called “Gig Harbor Life”, but things changed. This is from Vince’s launch post:
Gig Harbor Life was owned by the Kitsap Sun and was distributed — free — to thousands of mailboxes and dozens of drop points. When the Sun was purchased by Gannett, which was, in turn, bought by a hedge fund, Gig Harbor Life was discontinued and our town lost its “voice.” … It hurt. A lot. And it hurt our readers, too. Hundreds wrote to the publisher of the Sun, asking him to reconsider. But it was a done deal. The last edition of Gig Harbor Life was published in May 2018.
It took time, but over the next couple of years, the local Gig Harbor community worked towards replacing what they had lost:
They formed a board of directors, decided that becoming a community-based nonprofit news organization was the best business model for Gig Harbor Now, wrote up bylaws and articles of incorporation, and incorporated as a nonprofit business.
The new site does not have advertising. The non-profit is funded by donors and has a clear editorial independence policy, taken from the Institute for Nonprofit News.
Vince has posted a summary of the newspaper’s first year. The new “Gig Harbor Now” launched, using WordPress, on September 3, 2021.
We’ve published 479 more stories (as of Sept. 1) since those first five articles went live. We had more than 87,000 online page views in the month of July, after barely clearing 16,000 in our first month. We typically make about 30 Facebook posts a week. We’re working on our Instagram game, admittedly with room for improvement there. We’re on Twitter and YouTube. We’re at city council meetings and high school football games. We write about local businesses and the arts scene.
In another post, Vince zooms out to look at non-profit news more generally:
Nonprofit news isn’t exactly new. Public broadcasters have operated for decades as nonprofits … But the sector is growing, according to the Institute for Nonprofit News: “Since 2017, more than 135 nonprofit news outlets have launched” … Nonprofits like Gig Harbor Now attempt to make up for some of what has been lost as the for-profit newspaper industry shrinks. According to the the State of Local News 2022 report from Northwestern University, a quarter of the nation’s newspapers closed since 2005. The report predicts that fraction will rise to one-third by 2025.
Vince closes with this summary of why his work, and the work of all local journalists, is important:
By themselves, nonprofit news outlets won’t replace all that has been lost in the decline of the newspaper industry. The 11,000 newsroom jobs created by digital-only sites, including nonprofits, between 2008 and 2020 can’t make up for the more than 30,000 jobs lost at newspapers in the same period. But with continued support from the community, we can be part of the solution. Taylor says nonprofits like Gig Harbor Now can be “the future of how people get their news. You have experienced reporters that are vetted and have to go through an (editing) process to get their news online.” It’s a critical function, as Pat Lantz, president of our board of directors, points out. “Information and news is as important in the infrastructure of a society as water pipes and roads,” Lantz said. “It is a utility. It is essential to society, the free flow of truth-based information.”
In that last quote, Vince sums up much of what we’re saying here at KinshiPress. We are seeing a flourishing of local news, powered by WordPress. This is an important but fragile movement that needs to be encouraged and supported.