Hurt by declining ad sales and cutbacks, local newspapers have seen better days.
That's why at least two charitable organizations are funding projects designed to spur innovation in journalism and ensure people's access to regional news.
On Monday, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation said it will spend $24 million over five years to fund challenges for innovation involving access to local information. Its project, called the Knight Community Information Challenge, asks community foundations across the country to propose new ideas on how to serve people information on their local area.
Also Monday, philanthropist Leonard Tow said he would donate $8 million to two colleges toward the study of ensuring the survival of newspapers on the Web and training new-media journalists, according to a story from The New York Times. His foundation, the Tow Foundation, pledged $5 million to Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and $3 million to the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism.
The funding follows word that print newspapers are facing double-digit declines in advertising revenue this year because of an economic slowdown and continued migration of ad spending to the Web, according to The New York Times. Research firm TNS Media Intelligence recently reported that newspaper display ads, only one piece of the ad pie, were down more than 5 percent in the first quarter compared with the previous year. Newspapers apparently aren't getting enough of the ad spending that's flowing to the Web for their online versions.
Meanwhile, Internet publishers are continuing to experiment with new ways to serve readers. The Huffington Post recently said it would begin covering local news, starting with the Chicago area. And in a Web role reversal, The New York Times said this month that it would offer Facebook-like social-networking features to its online readers.
Local print journalism may be in its death throes, but these investments show that people see value in retaining their access to daily regional news.