A $1.5 million loan from FJC has enabled a first-of-its-kind local and national partnership to purchase a network of 24 weekly or monthly newspapers in Colorado, preserving local mission-focused community ownership. The newly created partner, the Colorado News Conservancy, has acquired Colorado Community Media (CCM), an independent, family-owned group of 24 community newspapers and websites.
The Colorado New Conservancy is a public benefit corporation jointly owned and operated by The National Trust for Local News and The Colorado Sun, and backed by a coalition of local and national impact investors. The transaction points a new way forward for communities in danger of losing control of local news enterprises that are in many cases the only independent news sources providing critical coverage of community issues.
Newspaper ownership in the U.S. has been rapidly consolidating over the last 15 years. As of 2018, the largest 25 newspaper owners held about one-third of all titles (with more consolidation since), and about 1,800 titles have been shuttered in the process. The most powerful newspaper owners are now private capital holding companies whose expectations for profit and return have strongly influenced local newsrooms’ size, quality, and resource levels.
According to the National Trust for Local News, “The goal of maximizing returns on capital has put capital owners’ values at odds with the value to local communities and value to society of a thriving, well-resourced, independent press.” The National Trust was formed to develop a new framework for newspaper ownership and governance that leverages national capital markets and supports accountability and decision-making in local communities.
“FJC’s role was so critical,” said Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, CEO of The National Trust for Local News. “While the local and national partners were organized and ready, the project wasn’t financed until FJC came in as a mission-based lender. We are so grateful for the opportunity to work with this incredible group of funders, owners, and journalists as our first transaction.”
FJC sources loan capital from the donor advised funds it sponsors, from donors who opt into the Agency Loan Fund pool as an impact investment vehicle. Since National Trust was a relatively new organization, FJC’s loan was made possible by the participation of a number of the project’s stakeholders as guarantors: the Gates Family Foundation, the American Journalism Project, and the Colorado Trust.
“We are thrilled to provide bridge financing to this vital initiative to strengthen local journalism,” said Sam Marks, Chief Executive Officer of FJC. “An ambitious project like this requires the coordination of a range of mission-motivated stakeholders, including capital providers.”
For additional coverage, see:
Washington Post, “New Deal: Colorado-national consortium buys community papers”