Eugene Weekly has launched a new nonprofit foundation to boost community journalism in the southern Willamette Valley. The nonprofit Twin Rivers Institute for Press Sustainability — TRIPS, for short — will collect tax-deductible donations to help existing small news outlets in and around Eugene cover everything from city council meetings to concerts and art openings.
The institute initially aims to collect $60,000 a year in grants and individual donations to help publications such as EW to expand its news and arts coverage, to continue to pay a living wage to its employees and to offer increased stipends to student interns who work with the paper.
EW’s Editor Camilla Mortensen, who will chair the founding board of TRIPS, says, “During the pandemic the same small news organizations that are essential to keeping the public informed about what local governments and schools are doing have had an increasingly difficult time making ends meet.”
Money collected through the nonprofit will be used for administrative costs of the organization, for augmenting coverage of news and the arts, and for reaching out to and covering underserved populations, including BIPOC and rural communities in the county. EW is also working on a project with $87,000 in funding from the Google New Initiative (GNI) to reach out to those underserved communities and assess support for nonprofit fundraising to cover them.
About a quarter of the money collected by TRIPS will go to small local news outlets other than EW, with the goal of helping established publications like The Chronicle, covering Springfeld and Creswell, as well as new startups such as the online Highway 58 Herald in Oakridge.
In recent years, EW has relied more on grant support to keep its news operations running. Significant contributions have come from the GNI, Facebook and the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics at the University of Oregon.
Following the 2018 sale of The Register-Guard, Eugene’s long-time daily newspaper, to an out of town corporation and its decrease in circulation from nearly 80,000 in the year 2000 to less than 20,000 a day today, EW has become the largest locally owned print publication in Lane County, putting out about 30,000 free copies each week while also publishing online at EugeneWeekly.com.
“The Weekly has become a major player in Oregon’s journalism landscape,” Mortensen says. “While we’ve always covered important stories and broken new ones, we’re now hearing from readers who want us to turn into a daily and cover all the stories the daily paper is missing. But as an alternative weekly, our mission is not to do the job of the daily paper, but rather provide other angles and viewpoints and fill in the gaps in coverage.”
While developing as an independent nonprofit organization, TRIPS is using the nonprofit Alternative Newsweekly Foundation, a creation of the national Association of Alternative Newsmedia, as its fiscal agent, allowing TRIPS to collect tax-deductible donations.