WCF News and Information Fund commits $1.1 million to The Wichita Beacon
Single-largest discretionary grant aims to cultivate a community-centric newsroom in Wichita; supplementary support comes from the American Journalism Project
The Wichita Community Foundation (WCF) recognizes local news access is critical to the progression of a healthy democracy. As a result, the News and Information Fund at WCF is committing a record $1.1 million to launch The Wichita Beacon, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to public service journalism.
"We're taking the next step to shape the future of local news as a public good," said WCF President and CEO Shelly Prichard. "This initiative embraces local and national collaboration to magnify a sustainable model of reporting to truly meet Wichita's community information needs."
WCF and the American Journalism Project (AJP) continue their partnership following a 2020 co-investment with a combined $3.85 million three-year commitment. The grants focus on the development of The Beacon, a regional network of nonprofit newsrooms across Kansas and Missouri, beginning with The Kansas City Beacon and The Wichita Beacon.
“We are at a crisis point when it comes to losses in local journalism that gives people the information they need to connect with their communities and go about their daily lives,” said Sarabeth Berman, CEO of the American Journalism Project. “The Beacon’s innovative nonprofit model makes it possible to truly serve residents of Wichita, and this pioneering investment by the Wichita Community Foundation stands as an example for local philanthropy across the country and their role in prioritizing local news.”
This strong base of funding catalyzes the growth of the Wichita-based newsroom, starting with key leadership. In June, the nonprofit news organization introduced The Wichita Beacon's first three reporters. To help build and lead the newsroom, an executive editor will be announced in the coming weeks.
“Public service journalism is desperately needed in Wichita,” said Kelsey Ryan, Beacon Founder and Publisher. “We’re so excited the Wichita Community Foundation is making this investment as we build The Wichita Beacon into a truly community-driven newsroom.”
Many local news models are emerging across the U.S. and a recent New York Times column highlights philanthropic organizations, including WCF, who are rethinking local news to meet the information needs of their communities.
The News and Information Fund at WCF seeks to strengthen local coverage by supporting a mix of initiatives designed to help journalists engage community residents in the reporting process. After devoting three years to local news and information projects, the Foundation understands the new network is a nod toward entrepreneurial thinking and experimentation.
“During our journalism landscape scan with AJP, we saw an absence of critical information in our community,” said WCF Director of Strategic Initiatives Courtney Bengtson. “By transforming the local news ecosystem as a whole, our diverse community can engage in quality content that is central to their lives and the health of our city.”
About the Wichita Community Foundation
Founded in 1986, the Wichita Community Foundation’s mission is to be the catalyst that creates lasting legacies by partnering with people, families, and organizations to devote resources to causes that matter. The News and Information Fund at WCF invests in strengthening the local news ecosystem, leading to a more informed and engaged city.
About the American Journalism Project
Founded by pioneers in nonprofit journalism, AJP is a venture philanthropy organization that makes investments in mission-driven nonprofit local news organizations and dynamic entrepreneurs, provides strategic support, and is building a movement to reimagine the future of local news. The American Journalism Project currently supports 20 newsrooms around the country.
About The Beacon
The Beacon is a nonprofit regional news organization focused on public service journalism. The Kansas City Beacon launched in March 2020, and The Wichita Beacon launches in Summer 2021.