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PRESS FORWARD VERMONT: The Vermont Community Foundation Announces a Five-Year Initiative to Strengthen Democracy and Support Local Media Across Vermont

Press Forward VT logo for web post

Reliable, balanced, and accessible local news is essential to sustaining connected communities and a vibrant democracy. As a central component of a multi-year initiative around democracy and civic engagement, the Vermont Community Foundation is proud to announce the launch of Press Forward Vermont. With this local chapter, the Community Foundation partners with Press Forward, a national coalition investing more than $500 million to strengthen communities by reimagining local news.

In being selected as a local chapter of Press Forward, the Community Foundation is committing to create a shared vision and coordinated action for Vermont. Over the next five years, Press Forward Vermont will work with and learn from media outlets across the state, support collaborations and innovative approaches, engage with policymakers, and foster local, state, and regional philanthropic support. The collective goal is to work together to support Vermont’s media landscape so that what is in place in five years is more comprehensive, more accessible, and more financially secure.

The Vermont Community Foundation is committed to raising philanthropic funding in support of these efforts through a new Press Forward Vermont Fund. The initial phase of the launch is to pull together partners and collaborators that will help inform the effort, with more details to come in the next few months. The new initiative comes at a time of continuing change in the media landscape nationally and in Vermont.

Total U.S. newspaper weekday circulation declined from 55.7 million to 24.3 million between 2000 and 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. Many newspapers have shuttered or contracted nationally, and Vermont also has felt this trend. The Green Mountain State, like the nation, has also seen a steady decline in the newspaper workforce. Employment in Vermont’s newspaper industry fell 75 percent from 2000 to 2023, according to a new study at the Center for Community News at the University of Vermont.

“We know that a robust media is critical to the democratic process, and that the contraction in newsroom employees in Vermont and across the nation often creates an information void, especially in smaller communities,” said Holly Morehouse, vice president for Grants & Community Impact at the Vermont Community Foundation. “More than ever, people need informed reporting about government, the economy, culture, education, and other matters to engage as community members, voters, and get inspired to participate in civic life. We believe that the new Vermont chapter of Press Forward will help strengthen the vital work that media in the state are doing and by extension strengthen Vermont’s communities and our democracy.”  

The Vermont chapter joins a network of 25 local Press Forward chapters nationally that share a common goal. “The challenge of rebuilding America’s local news landscape is vast and will depend on strengthening local efforts alongside new investment by national funders, smart public policies, and a variety of other revenue approaches. We're delighted to have Press Forward Vermont as a partner in this effort," said Dale Anglin, director of Press Forward.

Coinciding with the launch, Anglin, Morehouse, and Dan Smith, the president & CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation, will discuss the new chapter this Friday, June 28th in Burlington at the Vermont Journalism Conference 2024 at the University of Vermont, hosted by the Center for Community News and Community News Service. Partners and collaborators who will help shape the effort will also be on hand.  

The chapter will build out over the coming months. Once it is fully up and running, grantmaking strategies will prioritize innovations and collaborations that evolve business models, increase media revenue, inform public policy, and pilot innovative ideas and partnerships around story sharing, news sharing, and nonprofit conversions. Grants will support professional development, funding to explore online fundraising platforms, and coaching from national experts. Funding will also support the goal of ensuring access and equity so that balanced, reliable, local news is available to all Vermonters regardless of where they live, where they come from, or what languages they speak. The grant strategy will also focus on digital equity throughout Vermont and efforts to elevate diverse voices and reach underrepresented populations. 

Watch for more information about the Vermont Press Forward Chapter at vermontcf.org

Learn more about the national Press Forward movement at pressforward.news