The program recognizes newspapers that are doing something particularly well in the face of ongoing industry challenges.
For The Daily Progress, E&P highlighted the Media General paper for strengthening its local, public affairs reporting through the Progress’s innovative partnership with Charlottesville Tomorrow .
The partnership between a traditional daily paper and a web-only, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization has received national attention and has helped the paper maintain its strength in local public affairs news .
“We’ve learned in the past few years to be open to any ideas that can help us grow our readership,” said Progress Managing Editor McGregor McCance. “You have to be willing to try new things, to come up with different approaches and then look for the next thing to keep it going.”
The partnership includes no exchange of money, and the newspaper retains control over story editing and presentation. Charlottesville Tomorrow, funded entirely by donations and grants, benefits through the added exposure and the newspaper’s assistance producing a nonpartisan local elections guide .
McCance and Charlottesville Tomorrow Executive Director Brian Wheeler began discussions that led to the partnership in August 2009 . In the months since , the work has grown beyond meeting coverage to include enterprise reporting and joint projects.
“Overall, we published 20 percent more growth and development news in the first year of the partnership than the previous year,” McCance said.
Wheeler said the partnership has been a “true collaborative effort” that has helped Charlottesville Tomorrow improve the focus and quality of its content and attract new readers and donors.
“We launched in 2005 to share in-depth information on important quality of life issues,” Wheeler said. “With this unusual partnership, we have witnessed first-hand how reaching people through the local newspaper can help broaden community knowledge and engagement, and that’s good news for the future of our democracy and our community.”
The Progress is the only Virginia paper in the magazine’s list this year. Other winners nationally include the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Seattle Times and the Bend (Ore.) Bulletin.
“We thought the Progress’ partnership with a nonprofit reporting organization was a unique and realistic response to the growing need to do more with less, and it’s a strategy that other newspapers could benefit from looking into,” said E&P Managing Editor Kristina Ackermann.
Daily Progress Publisher Lawrence McConnell said the newspaper has pushed ahead with new products, as well as enhancements to the core newspaper, to maintain its readers and attract new audiences. Among the recent efforts: A Kindle edition; an e-edition; a woman’s magazine; and a standalone site devoted to University of Virginia sports, CavalierInsider.com.
“Our work with Charlottesville Tomorrow is one of best successes so far in what are ongoing efforts to keep improving The Daily Progress for our readers,” McConnell said.