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Bring in the Reinforcements

Newspaper with the headline "Local News" and the Zia sun symbol, representing New Mexico, on top of the publication. Glasses are partially visible in the top left corner.

It often feels like the news is bad, all the time, and getting worse. This week in particular I’ve cringed every time my phone pinged with an alert about another natural disaster, another major world democracy teetering on political collapse. But then I think about Simone Biles coming back from the twisties to lead the US women’s gymnastics team at the summer Olympics and I’m full of hope again. Through my own random twist of fate, I’ll be in Paris for the opening ceremony and I’m going to cheer myself hoarse for all of it.

My hope is to take a bit of a break from my news addiction while I’m on vacation. Honestly, it’s been a harrowing, peeking-through-my-fingers ride for the journalism business for a long time now. The megatrend in news about news points straight down into the toilet. The Reuters Institute’s 2024 Digital News Report came out a few weeks ago and the toplines are rough. Newsroom layoffs are spiking even in bright spots, from the innovative nonprofit Texas Tribune to the Washington Post, where Jeff Bezos’ billions weren’t enough to spare 250 Posties’ jobs.

Newspapers are closing at a rate of two per week. Generative AI has thrown us all for a loop, unleashing a torrent of misinformation. And to make matters worse, journalists’ own swanky cocktail lounge, formerly known as Twitter, has become a dive bar full of losers and bots under new management. We’re seeing all of this here in New Mexico, too, right down to the stale cigarette smoke and almost-entirely-faded glory of the Albuquerque Press Club.

But there are signs of hope, dear readers, and I’m clinging to them. One of the biggest is Press Forward, a coalition of more than 60 funding partners, including big names like the Knight, Ford and Macarthur foundations. Together they’ve committed to invest half a billion dollars in local news. It’s hard to absorb how amazing that feels to have that kind of help on the way. It’s like seeing the French fleet sail into the harbor to fight off the redcoats.

But it’s not just a national movement. Press Forward will also have local centers of action and New Mexico has already launched its own chapter, anchored by the New Mexico Local News Fund and powered by our community foundations, along with local groups like the Thornburg and McCune foundations. Already more than $200,000 has come to the state from Press Forward National and we’re going to hit the ground running with some research that will help guide future investment.

I hope you’ll enjoy my conversation with Press Forward’s Christina Shih, the Local News Fund’s Rashad Mahmood and my colleague, Mike Marcotte. Rashad, Mike and I have been in the local news trenches together for a long time and I promise you’ll be hearing more about this work in the months and years to come.

-Gwyneth Doland, NMiF Correspondent

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