The Stories We Could Tell: Journalism For A Just Economy

Just Economy Conference – May 10, 2021


A just economy requires informed communities and trusted sources of news and information. But in communities across the nation, local journalism has collapsed. Commercial newspapers have been decimated by the migration of local advertising to national and global platforms, especially Google and Facebook. Between 2008 and 2019, U.S. newspapers shed half their newsroom employees. Like food and banking deserts, news deserts are spreading. At the same time, disinformation, conspiracies and deepened political divisions, amplified through weaponized social media platforms, have eroded trust in news and in journalists themselves. This session will explore the role of local journalism in community wealth and prosperity, and how to spark more public and private sector investment in trusted, fact-based journalism. We will also explore scenarios for the Community Reinvestment Act to spark greater investment in local journalism.


  • Andrew Nachison,  Chief Communications & Marketing, NCRC
  • Candice Fortman, Executive Director, Outlier Media
  • Mitra Kalita, Journalist, Queens County New York
  • Tracie Powell, Program Officer, Racial Equity in Journalism Fund
  • Josh Silver, Director, RepresentUS
  • Steven Waldman, Journalist and President, Report for America


NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity.

Nachison, 00:10 

Hi everybody, welcome to another Just Economy Conference session. I’m Andrew Nachison from NCRC. I’m pleased to be joined today by Candice Fortman, Mitra Kalita, Tracie Powell, Josh Silver and Steve Waldman. We’re going to be talking today about journalism and the place of journalism in local communities, and in community wealth building. And whether there are other opportunities to drive more capital into local journalism. And whether or not journalism is necessary or nice to have for the vitality of local communities. I thought I’d give a little brief context and then, and then hand it off to this great panel that we’ve gathered today. But the context is twofold. Number one, is ncrc. And the notion of adjusted economy, and our focus on expanding opportunities for wealth building, particularly to underserved communities. The other context is the collapse of the US News business. And the emergence of news deserts. Something like half of the number of journalists working in newsrooms have lost their jobs in the past dozen years. 1800 newspapers have closed in the past 15 years, many of the weeklies, the pace of closures accelerated during the pandemic. And just like economists, and community activists focus on access to capital and credit and the emergence of banking deserts, where banking facilities that once were are no longer available, or like food activists who focus on food and nutrition deserts and the inequity of access to healthy food and nutrition. We now see the emergence of news deserts, the disappearance of local media and that leads to some some difficult questions. A about what to do about that be about what it means. And today we’re going to get into all of that. And I hope we’re going to get into it by by looking at both what role local media plays in local communities and local economies, then talk about what efforts are underway to drive more capital into local journalism. And finally, we can talk about the community reinvestment act a little bit.  And whether that might be a lever to drive more capital into local news. So with that as a, as a segue, Tracie, I want to kick it off by by passing the mic to you, so to speak, if you could introduce yourself, and tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to, and really the news landscape from your perspective. 

Powell, 03:52 

Thank you so much, Andrew. So first, I want to apologize, I’ve been experiencing a little a few technical difficulties. So I have my fingers crossed that the the internet will last we’ve been having a lot of storms here in the south. And so I think that’s why my my connection is a little bit wonky right now. So again, my name is Tracey Powell, I most recently led the racial equity and journalism fun at Borealis philanthropy, where I invested in independent community news outlets, organizations like Epicenter, which we’ll hear a little bit more about from neitra later on, I invest in these organizations, because I think I know I believe that they represent the future of what journalism will look like how it will feel what it means to communities. So on a very high level, you you put forth a lot of questions what I’m kind of going to zero in on kind of the general landscape right now. So in the last year, we’ve heard a lot about racial reckonings and so forth. And there’s also been a reckoning in journalism. But I don’t think it’s the reckoning that everybody’s been talking about, um, you know, a lot of folks have been saying, well, we want to increase diversity at mainstream white lit news organizations, and so on and so forth. That’s the reckoning that folks have probably heard about. But the real reckoning, I believe, is the redefining of journalism and what journalism means to local communities. I believe that, right now we see bonders on a national level, and now maybe in awakening among some local funders, and understanding the real importance of journalism in their local communities. There’s been a rollback in, quite frankly, accountability or watchdog journalism. And so I believe that the reckoning that we’re seeing is one that wants to be more inclusive of communities, and enabling and empowering communities to not only redefine journalism and say what journalism really means to them. What is most useful for them in terms of news and information and meeting their their information needs, but also again, um, community, a real sense of community ownership of local news. And so I’m looking forward to having that conversation with everyone today.  

Nachison, 06:31 

Oh, Tracie, just, 

Powell, 06:33 

I’ll pass it back to you, man. 

Nachison, 06:36 

Okay. Great. We we lost you briefly for just a split second at the end, or at least I did. Thanks, Tracie. Candice, let’s shift and go to you. Introduce yourself and tell us about what you’ve been doing in Detroit. 

Fortman, 06:53 

Sure. Hi, there. I’m Candice Fortman. I am the Executive Director of outlier media outlier is a Detroit based service journalism organization and an outlier, we take a very different approach to journalism than the average newsroom, we first look at what are the information needs of the communities that we’re serving. And the community that we serve in Detroit is first and foremost, those that would qualify as low wealth. And so we look at what are the information needs that they need in order to survive in this city? So much of the news is built for people who are curious, or who just want to be entertained, or who might need very high level information. We’re looking at information that helps people survive in place. So how do I get access to childcare? How do I get access to get my water cut back on or get my own or get rid of rent assistance? So we do what is called an information needs assessment. And that assessment allows us to ask ask Detroiters directly, if you had a reporter working with you for the next 24 hours. What would you have them find for you? And after we go there we also look at public information. So United Way data, emergency 911 calls, public information that comes into the council office or the mayor’s office to see what questions Detroiters and the other communities that we work with to see what those folks are asking from there we build our beats of reporting. So we don’t decide for ourselves what we’re going to cover in our newsroom. We allow our community to tell us the information they need us to go after. From there, we have a text message system that allows people to be able to text Detroit to a shortcode 73224. And they’re able to get automated, automated reported information. And that information has been put together by our reporters that allows people to get information around things from food insecurity. So what is the closest food food pantry to my house? Or how do I work with the with our local electricity company to get my electric turned back on. If in that system, you find that none of that information works for you. That is, there’s always an option for you to speak directly to a reporter in our newsroom. And within 48 hours, someone will respond directly to you, that allows us to have an incredible diverse range of sources. That means our community is often bringing us stories that are that we know are going under covered or uncovered in many cases. But it also allows us to build trust with our community is very different than at least any newsroom that I’ve ever worked in. We’re a small team of reporters very, very small. But we are a mighty team because we’re focused, first and foremost on those things that must be covered in order for people to survive. We do accountability journalism and investigative journalism that works directly for folks who are mostly or who are most underserved by traditional newsrooms. So that is outlier. 

Nachison, 9:41 

Thanks, Candice. Before I before I get to Mitra, Candice, I want to ask a follow up question and Mitra this question will come to you as well. That’s the why question. You just described the, you know, a pretty sweeping you know, almost life changing mission for your newsroom, but why is it needed? Detroit’s a big city? There’s a lot of local media there already, even even if it’s not as big as it once was. What? Why? Why you? 

Fortman, 10:18 

Well, certainly not me, if anyone can replace me, replay. I’m easily replaceable, of the model that we operate under. And I think we were talking about this backstage, when you talk about news deserts. There’s also a thing that happens when you are flush with newsrooms, that are still under serving the folks who are most in need of information. And so that really is about what information are you going to report and who are you reporting to? If you look at the audience that most many newsrooms, I shouldn’t say both, but many newsrooms are serving their elite audiences, people who have access to paid subscriptions to newspapers across the country, and across the world, they can get information, they also know or often are the power brokers in their communities. What happens when you don’t have those sorts of relationships with people, what happens when information is not just casual, but it’s actually what you need in order to survive from day to day when you need it to, to help your children to help your family. That’s a very different mission and a very different model for journalism. So I think that you can have to, like we do major daily newspapers operating. And you can still have people who are being underserved by those folks, because that is not where they’re focusing their time. Often those newsrooms are focusing their time on information that their subscribers would want to use, or maybe perhaps, at dollars, and we can get into a conversation about how the business model of journalism impacts the type of journalism that’s done maybe later in this conversation. Right? 

Nachison, 11:42 

Perfect. Yeah, we’ll get to that. Okay. Mitra, let’s shift to you and you know, same same journal question, introduce yourself. Tell, tell us about what you’re up to both of Epicenter and URL media? And the same question, why? 

Kalita, 11:58 

Sure, well, you’re gonna think Candice and I planned it, but I swear, we haven’t talked in a few weeks. And the last time we talked was not about journalism, it was about home decor. So I, I just need you all to know that we didn’t plan it. If anything, if you hear any overlaps or similarities in our answer, it tells you just how far behind we are in the reckoning in media that Tracie talked about. There is nobody more covered than the person who’s covered sort of in second rank to the President of the United States is the mayor of New York City. So if you assemble the press corps, first would be the president of the United States, the second largest press corps would be the mayor of New York City. And so when we talk about news deserts, I am certainly not in a news desert. However, and this is where I’m picking up the baton from Candice. I don’t believe that we as an industry have adequately responded to the digital disruption of the last decade the last few decades or so. And I think that diversity goes hand in hand with that disruption. So what do I mean by that? You heard Candice talk as much about texting people as out the intended audience, right? How are people receiving their information. And when we talk about formats in mainstream newsrooms, we kind of go to this place of inserting a photo doing some graphics that move. And we don’t think about formats in terms of the most important disruption, which is the delivery of this news and information to the intended audience. So epicenter was very organically created. I live in Jackson Heights. We were dubbed the epicenter of the epicenter last spring as the pandemic began, the neighboring areas are Elmhurst and Corona. And my husband and I are involved in our community. I was working at CNN at the time, I’m not one of these media executives who suddenly decided to care about my neighborhood, I promise you, I’ve been involved in my community for decades, we started to receive calls. And my husband’s bike mechanic tragically passed away of the city, he had no family in the US, he’s Mexican, the Mexican consulate could not help. The city needed a certain amount of money to claim his body. And we were in like a 24 hour deadline. You know, I don’t have a lot of skills, but I’m pretty good at getting people on the phone and asking them how to navigate bureaucracy and like, you know, acting on that information. And so and then there were businesses that would say, we can’t figure out our PPP loans, half of our staff is undocumented do we qualify? Just for perspective, 40% of New York City restaurant workers are believed to be undocumented. So that we did not handle these issues head on in the crisis, kind of the official response to crisis. I live in a neighborhood where we felt lending was a all but abandoned, but abandoned, right. And so we started to see responses and community building. For people like myself, people would turn to, you know, people like my husband, me and myself, other neighbors, and we would hit forward to 50 people or so and say, Can anyone help in this situation, these networks grew enough that I said, it’s really unconscionable for me to work at CNN and run the largest newsletter in the industry, which is our five things newsletter, and not apply what I’ve learned to my own neighborhood. And so epicenter was born as a newsletter, just so we didn’t send it to the same 50 people over and over and my husband and I kept joking, like we’re gonna go broke doing this, because the response kept being, which I hope we talk about later with CRA, it kept being throw money at the problem, as opposed to exposing the problem and solving for it more fundamentally, which, of course, gets to, I hope, why many of us under journalism. And so we launched this newsletter, it, you know, would tell you where to donate diapers to food banks, but also where to go biking with your kids and good places for hiking early on, we partnered with organizations like the Haitian times, and Gary Pierre Pierre, the editor of the Haitian time said, Please tell us where greenspaces because our community cares about that as much as PPP loans and other things. And so I think the other piece of our founding that’s important is that this was not just to uplift people in as a charitable endeavor, but as much about finding joy in the middle of a pandemic in the same way that everybody else gets to in the style and feature sections of other newspapers. And that’s very important to me, because a part of again, which I hope we talk about later, but wealth building and access to power, is access to information, and kind of those shortcuts that everybody else gets to benefit from, but not necessarily our communities at large. And so Epicenter really was, you know, get through the pandemic, find where you can go hiking, biking, where can you get food delivery, you know, it’s an intersectional audience. In that way, we’re a little bit different from outlier.  And I don’t mean that they’re not I just mean that it’s like a boost. There’s a we have boozy subscribers too, just to kind of be clear on campus is very intersectional. I promise, I know that. And that sort of brings me to and then last thing on Epicenter, and then I will briefly move on to URL media. Our greatest success in the last few months has been the vaccine rollout, where yet again, we felt all but abandoned by language used in who gets a vaccine, the documentation you need to show our district has more restaurant workers than any other area of New York City. They were favored early in the rollout but no plan to truly reach them. And so we started to fill in these gaps because we had been helping small businesses all along. They literally turned us for this help managers would give us Excel spreadsheets of their in hire staff and say please just get them vaccines. And so that’s how it began very again, organically to pick up from where Candace is talking about, I don’t get to say what the needs of the community are, they tell me. And that’s a really important part of our identity. I’m in the process of forming epicenter. Because I worked at CNN, I was always conscious of how hard it is to succeed if you’re small on the internet, and in a post death of George Floyd world, we were going through what didn’t feel like enough of a reckoning. I have an old friend Sarah Lomax Reese who some folks on the panel know, she’s the president of Wu rd, a black radio station in Philadelphia. And as I was founding this, and as I was talking to her just for guidance on like, connecting with my community and, and what the journalism around that should look like, it dawned on me that she had so much of what mainstream media is looking for trust, Authenticity, an audience that turned to her an audience that engaged with her in a way that we at the CN ns of the world, we’re kind of twisting ourselves to figure out I did not think I’m going to be honest, that Epicenter could ever on its own succeed against the behemoths on the internet, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter. And just gaming the algorithm alone takes a level of staffing resources, and kind of digital skill that as given what I just outlined, and how we’re structured felt impossible. And so Sarah, and I thought, what if we combined forces? What if we took all of our outlets, and we established a system where we’re sharing skills and know how sharing content so that it doesn’t become, oh, did you just capture that announcement from the census? I got to do a story. And then word has to do a story and patient time says to do a story, can we work together? And the third, which is really significant is can we share ad revenues, so that not everything becomes the fight for crumbs from the entities trying to support us. But can we upsell and leverage our skill, but not sacrifice our niche? And so URL media soft launched in January, I’m happy to report that the response has been amazing, especially on the advertising piece. And we do hope I know we’re going to talk about CRA, but we do hope that the next few years and the spend of trillions of dollars to uplift our communities does benefit newsrooms in a similar manner. 

Nachison, 20:53 

Great. Well, that’s a that’s a great segue. Both literally in what you just said. But but also you talked about success. We didn’t really talk about what what what you mean by success. It sounded like you were talking about reach reaching audiences, and also some sort of financial durability. Let’s take that. And pick up on those ideas with Steve. Steve, if you could tell us what you’ve been up to, and efforts to identify new ways of financing local journalism?  

Waldman, 21:35 

Well, three, I’ve been involved in three projects that intersect one is called report for America, which is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms and pays half the salary. So we work with places like Haitian times, that dmitrievich and and some of the groups that are in Borealis in the racial justice fund. And we just placed 300 reporters into the field, a good 40% of those beats are in communities of color, and the about 45% of the core are journalists of color. So it is very much agrees with the premise that when you talk about news deserts, that doesn’t just mean you know, a big county that has no news, no news organizations, and it is it can also be urban areas or suburban areas that have high population, but they’re big pockets, big communities that aren’t well served and often haven’t been well served for, you know, for a while. The the one of the then I also lead something called the rebuild local news coalition, which is a Public Policy Coalition made up of all sorts of other Coalition’s and groups that’s trying to really say, hey, when we look at this, we shouldn’t just be looking at public policies that prop up the existing players. But let’s think about policies that are actually going to help make a better, more inclusive system in the future. And then the third thing I’ve been involved with is a co founded something called the National Trust for local news, which is attempting to come similar to the way Tracy did at the financing issues of how to get more capital for local news. So when those all intersect in a bunch of ways, and I’ll sort of go quickly through some of the topics. One thing just before I do that, just to add to to something that all three of these great leaders, by the way, I don’t know whether you just knew this or lucked out, but you happen to pick three of the most important innovative leaders in this whole field. So it’s really not wasn’t luck. Good, good. Good reporting. So you know, they talked about the importance of having good information and an individual’s family’s ability to make life choices. They need to know where to get things, that’s the the most important thing. There’s a second element, which is the ability of a community to solve its own problems. And without information, a community can’t solve its own problems. And the third thing that we saw, I mean, it’s been there all along, honestly. But January 6, kind of hit us over the head a little bit with it, is that when you have a collapse of local news, what you have is vacuums get created. And one of the things that’s happened across the country, is that these vacuums created by the collapse of local news have been filled by national cable news, social media, disinformation, conspiracy theories, toxic misinformation, and that those communities become more polarized. There’s all sorts of really interesting academic studies that prove when you have less local news, you actually have more polarization, which might surprise people because they think of journalists as troublemakers and always stirring the pot and making everyone all divisive and angry. But actually look, the collapse of local news leads to more polarization. So the health of a community is at stake in all sorts of ways when the local news system collapses. And that is like the most important thing, I think, maybe for this audience to understand that the collapse of journalism is not primarily a job a problem for journalists, or for the journalism industry, it’s a crisis for communities. That has to be rise up as a much much important issue. For people who have nothing to do with journalism, have never thought about journalism before, have to really understand you’re gonna have a really hard time solving your own problems, whatever that is, whatever those are, if you have a crappy, dysfunctional local news system. So there’s all sorts of people doing interesting experiments and new models to try to solve this, including the women that you’ve already heard from. And, you know, on the traditional media side, there’s also interesting reforms going on to hit the most important one is, people realize that the ad model is not coming back to the same extent was and that they’re focused more on subscriptions, digital subscriptions, that’s smart. That’s a good way. But I think we all have also come to conclude that in addition to a hopefully healthier commercial media, the nonprofit sector is going to have to play a bigger role in local media. They just are. And what I mean by that is that the community itself, I don’t just mean you know, big, wealthy philanthropist, but nonprofit groups, small donors, medium donors, community foundations, ultimately, at the end of the day, Community Media is not going to survive without the support of the community. And that takes a lot of forums, absolutely subscribing your newspaper. But it may also mean donating to to a group like outlier, or it might mean public policies that actually help with this. So you have seen in the last couple of years, philanthropy starting to step up a little bit. It’s headed in the right direction. But it’s baby steps in terms of where it needs to go. And it’s it’s kind of crazy, because, you know, I think a couple 100 million dollars have been added to the pool of, you know, of philanthropy to media, but we need about a billion or two a year. So that gives you a sense of like, yeah, good progress, but a ways to go. On the other hand, if if the philanthropic world were to put 1% of its funding toward local media that would solve the problem, just 1% that would be more than enough money to help sustain local news organizations. So we’re not talking about a huge shift, but it is something that people have to think about in different way. The last piece is government. And I don’t know about about Candace and meet you and Tracy. But, you know, I come to the idea that government has to be involved in this reluctantly like It’s nobody’s first choice like everyone understands full well that having the government involved, supporting journalism is just crossed with all sorts of parallel. But what our group at rebuild local news coalition has done with that fear is said, okay, it’s a challenge. How are we gonna conquer it at because we have to, we need public policies that are going to help on this, we have to figure out ways of doing it. So there’s some interesting ideas kicking around the I’ll mention just a couple, just partially to get your actions. One is the idea of a tax credit that would go to Americans to buy local news subscriptions, or donate to local news, nonprofits, hopefully a refundable tax credit. And it’s gotten a kind of freakishly broad coalition of support, including left wing and right wing. And I think a reason is that it has the potential to bring in a lot of money to the local news sector, but it’s not a government agency, someone in Washington deciding who gets what, it’s really empowering consumers. So and that would be especially important in communities that have less income, because it just mag magnifies buying power. So that’s an idea that’s kicking around or a wage subsidy for journalists, essentially a tax credit for news organizations. There’s a couple of other ideas like that, but I won’t, I won’t take up all the time. But the point is, that it’s gonna have to be a combination of community philanthropic support, small, medium and large, new financing options, and some kind of government support. 

Nachison, 29:51 

Great, thanks. Well, you’ve also segwayed us nicely on two points. One, you you stressed the notion, and sort of Candace and maitra. And Tracy, that journalism is not not an end in itself. But it, it sure serves and is a component of what it means to be a strong and vital community. journalism is part of a community. And I think there’s a an inverse, or you could flip that around. Um, communities also need to learn to understand that relationship as well. Journalism isn’t simply a product or something to be consumed or observed. That actually has a role in communities. And and that gets to the the funding puzzle. And that’s going to get us to Josh. The The, the funding puzzle is to think about capital and investments in journalism, that are about community building, not necessarily journalism building, per se. Because when you build journalism, when you sustain journalism, you are you are enriching communities. To your point on the on the funding of the scale, and I think you’re absolutely right. You know, thus far, I think philanthropy has scratched the surface. And I’ll illustrate that in just one way you talked about, well, you know, what, what’s really needed is a billion dollars, the Community Reinvestment Act the law that was passed in 1977, to to reverse and address historic discrimination in lending and housing. redlining has since then, channel something on the order of $100 million a year into communities. Now, that is largely lending along with philanthropy and investments. But to put that point in perspective, just in the last two weeks ncrc negotiated what’s called a community benefits agreement with PNC Bank, which is going through a merger and that community benefits agreement, committed $8 billion over the next four years for the communities that PNC serves to expand mortgage lending small business lending, investments, philanthropy and other services primarily for underserved communities, communities of color and so on. So when you talk about a billion dollars, that sounds on the one hand, like a big number. But in the grand scheme of things in the grand scheme of our financial sector, it actually isn’t. And with that, I want to turn it over to Josh. Who can who can talk about the community reinvestment act a little bit. And Josh, I hope you can offer some perspective on what’s plausible, because the Community Reinvestment Act wasn’t meant to finance or do anything. It had a purpose, and it still does. And the question is whether that purpose fits the community needs for journalism, as it does for housing, and other services that that are supported and have been for a long time through CRA. So Josh, tell us about that. 

Silver, 34:06 

Well, first of all, this is a terrific panel. And I’ve really enjoyed listening to all the experts and leaders on this panel. Wonderful. First of all, mentioned Frederick Douglass. If you haven’t read the recent biography of Frederick Douglass, it’s a big one, but I recommend it. And just page after page. He was a newspaper man, he actually ran a newspaper. And you can imagine being an abolitionist, you know, threats to life, and all the rest of it during, you know, right before the Civil War. And it was hard for him to run his newspaper. It believed there were subscriptions. But he was constantly trying to go to wealthy people in the community. There’s this man, internet, you know, I don’t I didn’t really run foundations in that time. But there were wealthy people that were donors, people in England. And he struggled. He actually did shut it down after a while, but it was you talk about community survival. This is one example of community survival, survival one, Ida B. Wells, another leader. But yeah, let’s talk about the Community Reinvestment Act, something I know a little bit about more than I know more about in the media business. Great discussion again. But you know, the PNC agreement that Andrew mentioned, at a billion dollars, could some of that fund my no people of color running media companies, for example, there are provisions in our community benefits agreements for nonprofit organizations and businesses run by people of color. Let’s think a little bit about how a media company supports the community and how it can qualify under the Community Reinvestment Act. Community Reinvestment Act imposes an obligation on banks to serve the needs of communities, lending investing and services. CRA was passed to combat redlining, which is, which is the systemic discrimination against communities of color. And working class communities, banks could literally draw red lines around it activists actually started with the federal government, but banks would literally draw red lines around communities and refuse to lend it. So CRA initially was focused on home lending and small business lending. And right now under the CRA regulation, if you own and operate a small business, and it’s a loan of less than a billion dollars, that would qualify for CRA credit. So if you know maitra, Candace, you know, wants a small business loan from the bank, you know, and gets it that would actually qualify for CRA credit. But there’s another type of community development financing that also qualifies under CRA and community development. financing is supposed to revitalize and stabilize communities by attracting residents or by retaining residents. So suppose it’s now alone for more than a million dollars or an investment for more than a million dollars. I think you can make a strong case that the information that candidates and metric provides the community, similar to what Frederick Douglass night at the wells is doing is critical to the survival of their communities. So it’s critical to attracting and retaining residents, revitalizing communities. And I think you can make a case that it should qualify under c all right here locally in Washington DC, a longtime columnist for The Washington Post courtland. Malloy recently wrote a piece about gentrification in a community near the the ballpark in it for the for the team, the Washington Nationals, you can see some stuff in a big baseball fan, but it needs to benefit everybody. And there is gentrification in that community. At the same time, there’s environmental hazards in that community. A lot of light industry, kind of heavy industry, and it’s creating pollution and environmental hazards and asthma rates are going higher. And Cortland noise column is very interesting that maybe the new the new white residents coming in, and the long time people of color residents, they can work together to ask the city and to ask other stakeholders to take steps to remediate environmental hazards. And there is a gentleman who lives in the community who guess what runs a newspaper. So maybe that newspaper can be funded through the Community Reinvestment Act. And maybe philanthropy is part of things that banks provide to communities to get CRA credit. So maybe if we step up CRA a little bit, we can get close to a billion dollars a year that Steve was talking about. And last but not least, over the next year or two, CRA is going to be going to undergo regulatory reform, not changes to the statute, though there will be efforts, I think in Congress as well. But changes to the regulation can be that can be very powerful for channeling monies to businesses, and nonprofits owned and operated by people of color, including media companies. And the regulators are thinking of writing documents accompanying the regulation is called guidance, you know, examples of things that can qualify under CRA, and here’s an opportunity for this community, the immediate community to say, yeah, you know, supporting and helping finance community on media should qualify under CRA. So we look forward to working with you and these important endeavors. 

Nachison, 39:54 

Good. Josh, let’s talk about one, maybe it’s a point of tension, I’m not sure that there has been there was a, you know, in the last administration some effort to create a list of qualifying activities. And and that got some pushback from us and from others, because some of where that list went was potentially not really serving communities. For instance, bad places, yes, yeah, for instance, you know, bridges and highways and giant, giant projects that potentially could have been counted under CRA, you know, essentially, you know, overtaking me many smaller types of activities. And, you know, making it easy for banks to, you know, write a big check to a bridge project and be done. But that gets to sort of a different point of tension, which is, you know, essentially competition for what counts as a CRA qualifying activity.  What, what could be done to it, we have local media, into the CRA narrative, and into the framework, you know, without it leading to say, for instance, I’m alone to a hedge fund that owns local newspapers somehow qualifying for CRA, and again, making it easy for, for banks to do a big deal. And call it CRA when it’s not really serving locally owned, locally focused. businesses. 

Silver, 42:02 

Well, let’s talk about that for a second. And, you know, talk about first large infrastructure projects, you know, rehabbing the George Washington Bridge, no, that should not count to CRA. And also, but there was a history, a very bad history of urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s, where they would put highways through communities of color, and they would destroy communities of color. And it would be it would be basically forgetting the white managerial class from downtown to the suburbs, you know, outside of the cities where they lived. And there was actually a huge community backlash to this in Washington, DC, and the communities stopped it. And I wonder if there were local media outlets involved in this. Secondly, there was some discussion about this list of qualified care activities during the last administration. Funding police. No, we don’t want to go there right now. Maybe you can make a case for funding local fire protection but I would not use CRA dollars To find the local police police have been funded through other mechanisms. That’s a whole nother discussion. Let me stop that right there. But I think we can make a strong case that community controlled media, locally controlled media, not the hedge funds. You know, Bezos owns the Washington Post, okay, I don’t think the Washington Post needs this type of financing, it will survive. But this fellow who has started a media outlet, in the communities surrounding nationalist Park, you know, that those types of efforts are the types of anyone Kansas is doing as amazing retreat is doing is amazing. So you can actually do more to the extent that is controlled and owned by the community, and is responsive to the needs of community banks could actually get higher points on their CRA exams for financing innovative and responsive community development, loans and investments. So we could actually probably, you know, band together and get the get the regulator’s to actually add this as a positive example on their list of CRA qualified activities. And there is, you know, there is people starting to comment on your comment section, one of our commenters is halfway through the Frederick Douglass biography. 

Nachison, 44:32 

Oh, good. Thanks, Josh. So your last point, I think is critical. And I would love to pick it up. Go ahead, Steve. 

Waldman, 44:41 

Well, first of all, count me in and Josh, let’s do this. Yeah, let’s get together and make that case. It makes total sense. This is like a revelation. Honestly, I didn’t I’ve never really thought of it from this angle. I have wondered, just question on this of is, from knowing the details of how this works? Is it your sense that the types of things you’ve been talking about can be done through the existing law? Or do there need to be legislative changes as well?  

Silver, 45:14 

Well, it’s actually a regulatory reform that I’m talking about. 

Waldman, 45:18 

So I think so within the current law, as long as you have regulatory reform, you can do it. 

Silver, 45:23 

That’s Yes. And let me just give you a little background, there’s three agencies, there ought to be just one. But there’s one agency last year that did an awful they actually broke away from the other two agencies, the Office of the Comptroller currency, finalized an awful rule that would, you know, open up the floodgates the George Washington Bridge. So hopefully that gets repealed through a regulatory process. And then the other two agencies, the Federal Reserve Board, and the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Board, historically, a very helpful process. Dave asked the general public, they asked the general public 99 questions I kid you not. And people commented the Fed, but the feds questions and their ideas can form a solid basis for reforming the CRA regulation. So we hope that towards the end of this year, or possibly going into the beginning parts of next year, the three agencies will come back together and propose a CRA rule. And here is our opportunity. You know, NCRC will keep you informed of hopefully getting media locally owned and Community Media on the table. 

Nachison, 46:31 

And the big point that Josh just made is this regulatory reform process. It’s underway now. It doesn’t happen routinely. It’s somewhat slow moving. But there is a window of opportunity now to enter into that conversation. And I do think it’s important that, you know, that the world of journalism and the world of community development, they are mostly like ships passing in the night. They mostly don’t intersect. And this seems to be an opportunity where they could 

Kalita, 47:12 

I think just framing on that Andrew might be that the word journalism to many communities continues to be a repellent and so to the or not even a repellent. I don’t want to just kind of a great unknown, right. And so I think one thought, which, you know, I’m, I’m similarly on board with the caveat that at least, my last kind of closer exposure to CRA was an economics editor at the Wall Street Journal during the Great Recession. And, you know, small businesses for for a long time have complained about the requirements to kind of justify this is very common for those of us who also receive funding Tracy, I’m sure has thoughts on this. And so a lot of the programs that are meant to compensate for past unfairness often require you to doubly prove your value and your worth. And so I think We’re just dealing with a generation where we’re, we’re not really skeptical of our own competence right now, right, we actually feel like we’re coming to the table and have something quite valuable to bring in. So I think there’s a framework. The second piece, I would say, is just information. You know, you’ve seen like infrastructure being kind of expanded and what that includes. Some people have said, caregiving, for example, should be a part of infrastructure and daycare and other very rightfully, if you look at each of the challenges that we face in a post pandemic world, and decades of neglect that brought us here, information is such the cornerstone of getting it right. Whereas journalism feels a little bit self, let’s say self congratulatory, but the word the word can kind of conjures a certain way of doing things, where it’s us who also need to tweak how we do things in order to meet some of these challenges with the right information with the right delivery models. And so I do think to the extent we can weave in a challenge to our own industry to not kind of revert to the nostalgia of Oh, when we had like, you know, six tabloid papers in New York City, and everything was great, because it was not great, I assure you,  

Nachison, 49:35 

Tracy, I think Tracie wants to get in.  

Powell, 49:38 

Oh, yeah. Thank you so much, Andrew. Again, this is a great conversation. And I’m on board 100%. But I want to go back to that concept of redlining. Right, we talked about this a little bit a few weeks ago. So we’re while there was redlining, in terms of housing, there was also red lining in terms of information, news and information. You had publishers of daily and regional news outlets intentionally deciding to produce information for very fluent, upwardly mobile people. That meant excluding whole parts of their community. And so when we talk about how we, how we fund it in the future going forward, we have to keep in mind, this sense of community ownership, community participation, and dare I say, community partnership, a lot of the news organizations that are struggling now and trying to figure out how to build trust or rebuild trust, well, let’s just be honest, the communities, Mitra, know these outlets, they know them well. And they trust them to do exactly what they’ve always done. And so we have to rethink about what we mean, not just by journalism, amusement for me, whatever you want to call it. But really centering all of this around the communities that the news organizations are supposed to serve, it has to look more holistic, and it has looked in the past. And so I just the other piece, I want to kind of explore in this is when and when we talk about process and the regulatory bureaucracy and everything. Who are the folks at the table? Or is the community truly represented at that table when we are deciding what the framework and what these guidelines will look like? All for all, too, not too many years. The communities we sang one serve have been left out, purposely left out and left out because well, they don’t understand they understand government, even listening understand media. And so how are we going about truly involving the communities in in helping to design the frameworks in which we want to which we say we need to operate under in order to be more sustainable and more relevant to the communities we serve?  

Silver, 52:10 

Quick answer. Tracie, there’s requirement, the Administrative Procedures Act. When a federal regulatory agency wants to change its regulation. It is required to request comments, they propose the changes to the regulation. And then the agency is required to request comments from the general public. And there, I think in this case, there’ll be at least a 60 day public comment period probably longer because it’s going to be rather, you know, dense regulation. But during the public comment period, anybody can comment? Anybody on this panel can comment anybody from the community can comment. So what scrc tries to do is we actually write sample comment letters. You know, I wrote a I wrote a comment to the Federal Reserve Board which is which was 100 pages because they asked 99 questions, people in the community and not going to write 100 pages on something very technical, but they will make my Write a few pages or a few paragraphs. And that’s where I, you know, when Andrew comes in, I could give Andrew the 10 page letter. Now, I give Andrew a two page letter, and he’ll cut it in half. And that will be the sample comment letter for the community. But we want people from the community that also put it in their own voice, take this, take the sample letter and change it and personalize it and talk about your own community. And the struggles that your own community are going through whether it’s housing, or environmental, and why this type of activity should count for CRA financing. So, you know, we will plug you in, 

Nachison, 53:48 

I think, anyway, I think Tracie’s point is also critical, that the table is not just on the regulatory rewriting, but on the decision making. After the regulations are in place, for instance, the decisions that funders make, about who they’re going to invest in, to some extent that might get to the community benefits process that that we lead. And Tracy’s question is who’s at that table? And, you know, if, if that’s if that conversation is going to be extended to include local media making, you know, ensuring that the community is well represented there is, let’s just leave it as a question mark. I also want to get back to matress point and then I’m going to ask us to quickly in 30 seconds or less wrap this up because we have to this this, this your point about terminology, and the messaging and really kind of the institutional voice, whether it’s journalism or information, or something else, I will just self referentially point out that going back 15 years or more, was the emergence of the notion of we media, which was something that I worked on for many years. And and the shift from, you know, knowledge is that some something that came through institutions that controlled what we know, to to knowledge that was shared and controlled by communities and individuals. And in some ways, I think, I think your point, leads us back to some different formulation for what we call this institution, in a community that meets the information needs of communities. So with that, 30 seconds or less, last words from from everybody. And what why don’t why don’t go back around quickly. If anybody wants to add something, Candice, I’ll start with you. And we’ll go around quickly, where, where are we?   

Fortman, 56:25 

Oh, we’re in the wild west. I think that we’re in a new age of information. And in the new age of who will run the newsrooms of the future, I think it’s going to look a lot different than it looks today. You’re going to have a lot more small newsrooms, and I really hope you’re going to have a lot more community based newsrooms with people who have deep knowledge of the places that reporting on and the people that reporting for, but I do want to address Arden’s comment in in the chat. Our your question is one that I think a lot of people are asking themselves, how do you start a local newsroom? First, start by asking yourself why you want to start a local newsroom is a hard job is not for everybody. Make sure that your heart and mind are in the right place. But once you get from there you have that answer clear. There are so many great resources that are emerging to help people start newsrooms right where they are. And I’m sure if we if you find my email, I can help you find them because I want more people starting newsrooms, especially if their minds and hearts are in the right place. 

Nachison, 57:23 

Great. Thank you, Mitra. 

Kalita, 57:27 

Well, I think one area that we didn’t dive into, which might segue from Candice, we had again, we are actually a for profit endeavor. We work closely with the community, we work closely with nonprofits. I’m still I’m not as down on the advertising model, as my friend Steve might be. So I think that also recognizing that community building and community businesses come in many forms a part of the reason we are for profit, especially for URL media, is that small businesses, whether it’s the travel agency booking your tickets for hudge or, you know, a bank, a local bank, or are all a public Part of our community in a way that’s different from traditional mainstream media advertising. And we want to bring these voices into the fold and disrupt who gets to advertise and leverage our own platforms as theirs. As a part of our model, I, I do believe that CRA, which has a history of working with banks and businesses does make room for that vision. So I think that’s another area that we might find some common ground. And then the last thing I would say is to kind of piggyback on who gets to start a community journalism initiative or a news and information business. Um, one of the things when we launched after launching URL in January, is that we heard from dozens of creators around the country who are not, you know, written about in the substack revolution, like launching their own newsletters and having a brand that attracts 10s of 1000s of followers, but are serving really important roles nonetheless. And I think I’m expecting all of us to scale at the level that we’ve talked about here is just unreasonable and unfair. rightscale, in some ways is at odds with how community works. And I think we just want to, I’m working on this myself in my own language, to be okay, with small and meaningful and how you make room in that tent for those smaller creators that really do represent lifelines in their community to information as well.  

Nachison, 59:43 

Great, thank you. Small as important, Steve 30 seconds. 

Waldman, 59:49 

Well, in fact that there was a whole wave of thinking in both for profit and nonprofit world that the only way media could survive was to consolidation and large scale. And I get the reasoning behind that there are economies of scale, but it went so fundamentally against the principles that he was talking about, which is like, at the end of the day, Community Media is not Community Media, if it’s not actually rooted in and it will fail, rooted in the community. So my, my overall pitch is that this isn’t just a journalism issue. I think we do need professional full time journalists as part of the mix, not just you know, VA volunteers, there need to be full time Professional Journalists serving communities as a public service professional. And we need to be thinking about, but that the the bigger point is that the community itself has to not look at this as a journalism issue and look at it as a community health issue. Yeah. 

 Nachison, 1:00:48 

Thank you. Tracie, I’m going to give you the last word, and, and then we’re out of time. 

Powell, 1:00:54 

Thank you. So out finish with where I started. Journalism doesn’t look like necessarily a 500 or 15 word story anymore. It’s not necessarily a 32nd segment on your TV box, or what have you. People are producing news in lots of different ways. People are producing critical information, meeting the needs of their communities in a lot of different ways in a lot of different languages. I think that, yes, smaller and independent, is is important. But also understanding that information is not from the top down anymore. It’s not even necessarily from the bottom up, is what I call circular and horizontal. And so it’s complete with feedback loops, and really listening to them to the community and responding to their needs. That’s where we are, but we’re not far enough down that road. Not enough of us are doing that. And so going back to what Candace said, Yes, we want to find as many independent community publishers as possible. But these publishers have to produce credible information and have to really already be trusted by their communities. Right? The trust Part one is a issue we didn’t quite tap into today. But that’s really, really important when it comes to serving communities. And I’ll leave it at that and say, thank you very much for having this this session. learned a lot and I’m completely on board with Josh. So I put my my email in the in the chat so we can stay in contact. 

Nachison, 1:02:24 

Terrific. Well, thank you with that. Thank you, Tracie. Thank you, Candice, Mitra, Steve and Josh, there are some action to come out of this to connect, to connect these networks in a very practical way on the regulatory side. And on the policymaking side, but clearly also a lot of inner innovation, and evolution that needs to take place on the ground and communities. And with that, thank you all. We’re gonna wrap it up. This video will be available online for the conference attendees for the next month, and then we’ll make it public. online as well, and I hope we will all Further Thanks Thank you 

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