Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving, San Antonio. The Rivard Report is nearing the finish line of its first year of operations as a nonprofit dedicated to publishing mission-driven journalism. Today we give thanks to our individual and business members, and we make the case for readers who are not members to join.
We have a goal in mind. We are working to sign up 225 new members by the end of the year to earn a $15,000 challenge grant from one of our generous Rivard Report board members. Fifty new members have joined in the last two weeks. We can do this.
Tuesday, Nov. 29 will be our first time to participate in the annual Giving Tuesday tradition. Members and nonmembers alike can use our Donate page to either join or increase their giving if they are able to. Some may make a single donation, others may opt to make monthly contributions charged to a credit or debit card.
The Rivard Report will celebrate its fifth anniversary of publication in February, but our greatest year of growth has come in 2016 after we turned nonprofit and used the new stream of funding to expand our staff and coverage. A number of benefactors provided us with the funding to make that transition, knowing that generosity would see us through the next three years as we build a base of sustaining members.
With additional funding commitments already in hand for 2017, we will hire reporters to cover business and tech as well as public health and the biosciences, and another editor to help manage our growing staff. With your help, we will continue to grow, slowly but surely.
What is mission-driven journalism, you ask? It’s journalism with a purpose that reaches well beyond reporting the latest headlines in the 24/7 race for numbers. Our mission is simple: to inform and connect the city’s engaged citizens with news, information, stories, and commentary that help make San Antonio a better place to live, work, and play.
In Old Testament terms, we are David to the Goliaths in the market. We can’t compete for the most news, and we shy away from most sensational news. The tragic fatal shooting of a San Antonio police detective is certainly an important exception to that rule, but most of the time, you have to go elsewhere to get your crime stories, traffic fatalities, and the latest celebrity coverage. There are enough reporters competing for those stories. We get many of our story ideas from our readers.
The membership rolls of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Nonprofit News tell the story of a growing national trend. There are now more than 110 new local nonprofit sites in U.S. cities and states, playing a vital role in delivering coverage of schools, local government, neighborhoods, charities, and other community news. Much of that news was once provided by daily newspapers with broadcast media following in their slipstream. Newspapers and broadcast media still matter, of course, but with shrinking newsrooms and circulation the role they fill is a diminished one, and nonprofit, city-based news sites are playing an important niche role.
One other difference between the nonprofit news startups and the legacy newspapers: We are institutionally nonpartisan. We do not endorse candidates, for example. That does not mean that our columnists, regardless of whether they are on staff or voices from the community, do not express points of view. My own post-election column, On Character and the Presidency, angered some hometown conservatives, some of whom have cited it and other columns to say they will not support our site. Other columns, including A Visit to Trump’s America and Why I Voted for Donald Trump, both of which received the same home play and social media promotion as my column, exemplify the rules of fair play that guide us.
We know we can’t publish a credible news report without upsetting different individuals and groups from time to time, but we do take our work seriously and we don’t take cheap shots. We don’t opt for the sensational. In the end, we want everyone in the community to feel at home on our website. We want people from all corners of the city to come forward with their submissions for publication.
It takes money to do what we do and to do it well. Not a huge sum of money, but a steady flow of donations. Given our ambitions to grow and improve, we will need to build our membership base now and in the coming years to fulfill our mission. We hope you agree that San Antonio is a better city with the Rivard Report, and we hope you decide to support us now and help us earn that $15,000 challenge grant.