By Harvey County Now Staff
Local readers will now help spearhead a national journalism research study aimed at preserving and strengthening local newsrooms nationwide.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Kansas, University of Colorado-Boulder and University of Minnesota, surveyed 132 publishers and 416 readers throughout the central United States on revenue streams they’d like to see put in action or would support funding.
Researchers chose Harvey County Now and sister publication Hillsboro Free Press for a $10,000 grant to act as a pilot partner in putting the study’s findings into action. The research is funded by the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at KU. The grant also includes an intern from KU, William O’Dell Crow, who will be starting with the publications in mid-May.
“Just knowing Joey and the team there, there’s a lot of enthusiasm, there’s a passion for journalism and there’s a willingness to try, that isn’t there with many other places,” said Teri Finneman, associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas.
Researchers on the team including Finneman, Pat Ferrucci of Colorado and Nick Mathews of Minnesota concluded from the data they collected that a feasible new business model to test out would incorporate memberships, e-newsletters and events.
“To have the trust of Teri and the rest of the researchers and their institutions is incredibly humbling for all of us.” Publisher Joey Young said. “Part of the project will involve hosting events, which we already do. We jumped at the opportunity of expanding upon those events. The membership model idea keeps what we have in place for existing subscribers, but offers additional ways for them to further support the paper, as well as receive, what we think, will be quite a bit of added value.”
The study will also provide resources to Harvey County Now aimed to help the publication grow readership through newsletters. It’s something Harvey County Now has dabbled with in the past, but hopes to learn how to better implement.
Managing Editor Adam Strunk said the program has the chance of not just benefiting the newspaper and readers, but the community as a whole.
“We’ve had articles in the paper recently about young people leaving our community,” he said. “As someone who moved to Newton at 25, and as someone who works to recruit people to work for us, I feel there’s a definite economic development angle here. This program gives us a chance to play around with ways of offering more for community members to do in the evening that can be simply enjoyable for the sake of being enjoyable. I think that could be a small piece to help with retention of professionals in the city.”
Finneman, who heads up the research, previously compiled oral histories on how newsrooms adapted to the pandemic. Harvey County Now also participated in that project.
What she learned during that project motivated her to help put forth the current study.
“It showed how important it was to have a local news organization giving you information you can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “This is an effort to make sure we don’t lose any more newsrooms across the country and keep local journalism strong for the future.”
Harvey County Now hopes its participation in the project will present findings that can help other news organizations build strong and sustainable local newsrooms and enjoy some of the success the publication has had. Much of that success is thanks to the community and readers that support the paper. They’ll now be a part of an effort to continue to help innovate the journalism industry.
“We appreciate the readers in the Harvey County Now and Hillsboro Free Press,” Finneman said. “You’re going to be national leaders in how this goes and all of the readers are playing a role in supporting this and making a national impact.”
Look for more information to be released soon.