We have all seen challenges to the future of a free and independent press. Yet I remain an optimist if we in the community newspaper business can learn best practices from the large media outlets and harness the best tools to help us disseminate information, which will always be in demand.
By Ken Esten Cooke, TPA Second Vice President
At the Texas Newspaper Foundation (TNF), we are focusing on more aggressive fundraising in the coming years. We have an eventual goal to fund all Texas Press Association dues, registrations and fees for journalists to go to conventions and educational programs, whether in person or online.
That will be costly and take some time, but I believe we can do it, starting with simple donation requests to expanding to sell sponsorships for events with leaders regarding rural Texas issues, such as broadband expansion, economic development and more (a la the Texas Tribune). These events could be live-streamed and potentially incorporated into our conventions each year.
TNF is the 501(c)3 nonprofit wing of TPA that is dedicated to helping publishers provide training opportunities to their staff. In these fast-changing times, this is more important than ever for operations of all sizes to help us keep up with the public’s demand for near-instant, accurate information. With these, we better serve our readers and advertisers.
Your donations to the TNF are encouraged and welcomed to help us reach these goals.
Here are three ways to help TNF raise funds:
We recently designed some “Come and Take It” bumper stickers based on the historic Gonzalez cannon, but with a reporter’s pen. At the bottom, it says “Support the First Amendment and Freedom of the Press. Proceeds benefit the Texas Newspaper Foundation. Tnf.net.” These are available on the TPA store in singles, 3-packs or 5-packs, and all proceeds go to TNF. These can be shared with friends who support what we do, purchased for staff members, or stuck to our own pickup bumpers. If it proves successful, this design can expand to T-shirts, flags, posters and more.
Secondly, it may seem a bit morbid, but when the time comes, add in a donation to the Texas Press Foundation to obituaries as a donation option. In Mike Hodges’ decades of service with TPA, he has never seen a publisher’s or editor’s obituary with a suggested donation to TNF, as most just opt for their church or charity of choice. As we all are grateful for our First Amendment freedoms, let’s make this a default choice.
Lastly, consider a donation to TNF in wills, as a writeoff, or when we lose an industry friend or colleague. And ask your friends who support community journalism to do the same. Donations can be processed via the website, tnf.net, then clicking on “Support.” Or through a check through snail mail to: Texas Newspaper Foundation, 8800 Business Park Drive, Suite 100, Austin, Texas 78759.
Our newspapers have, in many cases, the trust gained from more than 100 years of community building and branding. We have trained, professional journalists working for us. We are frequently the only independent journalism presence at local governmental meetings. And the pandemic has only accelerated the desire for unbiased, local information.
Yet our industry is challenged by digital advertising markets, which increasingly go to the two big tech giants; the drop in marketing budgets caused by COVID-19; delivery issues caused by the postal service, and a sometimes media-unfriendly political environment.
We remain passionate about our papers because we are a cornerstone of our communities. TNF wants to help media organizations remain healthy and successful. But we need everyone’s assistance to make this happen.
Don’t let external issues like those mentioned above “Take It.” Let’s support each other. Thank you for considering a donation to TNF.
Ken Cooke is editor and publisher of the Fredericksburg Standard Radio-Post and co-publisher of his family’s newspaper, the Rockdale Reporter. A longtime director of the association, he currently serves as second vice president.