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Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022
It’s not polite to talk about money, but we can’t afford to be polite.
Because we are trying to reinvent local journalism by building a business model that works for communities and journalists, I have to talk about money.
Charlottesville Tomorrow has just been awarded a two-year $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to expand our coverage of central Virginia. It is a big win for us to have earned the trust of one of the largest equity-focused foundations in the country and to be one of Ford’s first local journalism partners in Virginia. Over the past four years we have received significant funding from national organizations like the Knight Foundation, Meta Journalism Project and Google News Initiative. This latest grant will help us deepen our connections in our community and expand our model regionally.
Each time we get a big national grant, though, I worry that you will think we are made in the shade. While we celebrate this vote of confidence from the Ford Foundation, at the same time I ask myself, how much is healthy local news worth to a community? What value do we place on the work of lifting up our community’s voices in the world?
The Ford Foundation would never have invested in us if they had not seen your strong support of our work. Their grant is meant to help us create a news organization that more people want to support, too. Their program officers understand the importance of healthy local news ecosystems in democracy, and they are looking for local and regional partners who have strategies and values that align with theirs.
Part of that theory of change involves acknowledging that these days, semi-urban small cities like ours exist in a relationship with their rural surroundings. Charlottesville is our place and tomorrow is our focus. But Charlottesville isn’t Charlottesville without Albemarle, Fluvanna, Nelson, Green and Louisa Counties. Our employment, housing, transportation systems and our governments are all connected, and we are connected by our need for good information to drive our own futures.
Our plan has never been just to do good journalism. We want to restore the value of local journalism and its connection to people and places. We want to report stories that help people take action in their lives. We want to build a community that has power through its knowledge, awareness and connection.
In order to do that, we need to grow our team, we need to pay competitive salaries and we need to make local journalism a field where more people can work. We also need to expand our reach. All of that takes resources. When I became executive director over four years ago, we operated with less than $400,000 per year. This year, we are working to raise over $800,000. In two more years, we will need to double our revenue again if we are going to serve the information needs of our growing audience effectively.
The Ford Foundation would never have invested in us if they had not seen your strong support of our work. Their grant is meant to help us create a news organization that more people want to support, too.
No matter how many national grants we receive, the long-term success of Charlottesville Tomorrow will always depend on local support and funding. This grant is not a resting place, it’s a sign that we have a chance to turn a corner with your help. And it’s a chance to thank you, our readers and supporters, for getting us to this point.
Giles Morris, Executive Director
P.S. As we grow, we need your feedback. Our subscribers are so important to us because you let us know if we are on the right track. Please take less than five minutes to tell us what’s most important to you in local news.
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