An opportunity for you to help strengthen protections a newspaper provides

We're just getting started on a collaborative project we intend to boost the Daily Herald's coverage of local and state news, and we're already seeing encouraging signs that suburban readers value that mission.

In a front-page story last week, editor John Lampinen announced our 2020 Report for the Suburbs campaign to build on support we're getting through a yearlong foundation grant that will enable us to add three new reporters this summer. Readers promptly responded and with donations of varying amounts - including one of $1,000 - have already pushed us to 10 percent of our fundraising goal for the year.

Report for America is a nonprofit foundation devoted to protecting local democracy by helping to strengthen local newspapers. In 2020, the Daily Herald was among 164 news organizations nationwide it chose to host journalists.

We're using the project to fund two reporters in under-covered suburbs and a third who will follow suburban state legislative campaigns this fall and local elections next spring.

The early response from readers has been gratifying for us as a business enterprise but even more encouraging for us as devotees of our local community. For, it is not just the news business that has suffered during the massive upheaval in the media environment of the past decade. It is also taxpayers and local democracy, for whom the local newspaper has been a principle defender and advocate. Now, readers have an opportunity to help shore up the protections the Daily Herald provides.

You don't have to take the word of someone like me with a personal stake in the industry's health on the impact of the changes affecting today's newspapers. You can find the evidence in independent studies from the Brookings Institute, the Pew Research Center,, and a growing body of research from agencies as diverse as the University of Chicago, the Nieman Foundation and the Journal for Communications.

Efforts by these groups and others have documented direct connections between the loss of local newspapers and increased taxes, increased government costs and decreased interest in local government, including fewer options in races for local leadership offices.

"When important stories are not told, community members lack the information they need to participate in the political process and hold government and powerful private actors accountable," writes Clara Hendrickson, a Brookings research analyst in a November 2019 essay titled "Why America Must Revive Its Local Newsrooms."

A newspaper is more than the printed pages you hold in your hand or scroll on your computer or smartphone. It is a team made up of editors, photographers, artists, reporters and more who keep watch on local affairs and seek out the information that readers use to manage their government and enhance their quality of life.

As the advertising dollars that once supported this work have begun to shift to other forms of media, it has become ever more difficult for newspapers to maintain their unique role as government's unofficial fourth estate. We have had to find new ways to diversify our revenue sources, while struggling to maintain staffing levels that advance the goal.

I am confident that in the long run, we will adapt to the habits of changing generations as we have many times before, but it is going to take support from our readers, new sources of revenue and new partnerships and business structures, all of which we've been steadily developing. Efforts like the 2020 Report for the Suburbs project can be a meaningful part of the picture.

If you'd like to help with a tax-deductible contribution and be a part of the long-term solution for local journalism, you can donate at You can also share ideas with Lampinen or volunteer by emailing

I hope you'll join your friends and neighbors who already have decided to participate and help us continue work that benefits us all.

Jim Slusher,, is deputy managing editor for opinion at the Daily Herald.

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