When we got the email this week from the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) sharing the richly detailed case study on the growth of VT Digger – Vermont’s nonprofit news success – it triggered several reactions.

The first was to learn more about the remarkable founder, Anne Galloway.


Second was to note who spurred development of the case study: Knight Foundation and the Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School. (Full disclosure: I passed through both). For anyone new to the mores of journalism, the distinctiveness of nonprofit news, or the nitty gritty of running a nonprofit, this case study is most instructive. I immediately shared it with colleagues. By the end of the day, my social media feed went viral with mentions of VT Digger. Read the piece; you’ll see why.

Third, because INN is but one of many sources I count on to stay abreast of the Foothills Forum ecosystem – journalism and media, nonprofits, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, rural America, Virginia, Rappahannock, agriculture and the environment – perhaps it may be useful for our directors, advisors, funders, members, the curious and the skeptics.

Obviously, the following specialized sources complement my diet of print and online news. Your news feed might look different, but mine includes The Washington Post, the Miami Herald (again, proud veteran), New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Rappahannock News (of course!), The Boston Globe, NPR, CNN, Politico, Public Source, Fox News, BBC, CNBC, WTOP (I like hearing about the traffic I don’t have to concern myself with out in Rappahannock).

I’ve backed off Facebook recently, removing it from my iPhone but keeping it on my Mac. I did so for a combination of reasons, including declining trust of an ever-present behemoth. I need to pay more attention to Twitter than I do. I fiddle with a dozen podcasts, returning first and foremost to Terry Gross and “Fresh Air.” I’m still hooked on baseball, more Marlins than Nats (sorry; I wrote the Herald’s front-page headline when South Florida was awarded the franchise 25 years ago. The headline: Great Catch!).

Fourth, we always have newcomers joining us (Summer Fellow Sara Schonhardt arrives this week; our ad hoc search committee has scheduled interviews with candidates for our part-time executive director position, and we’ll be discussing invitations to new board members). Thus, having this brain dump of a list, now curated, offers a glimpse of where we slot in the nonpartisan news nonprofit ecosystem.





Warning: Serendipitous discoveries follow as you start to click on links below.

Institute for Nonprofit News (INN)

In less than 10 years, this organization has grown to include some 150 nonprofit news organizations. INN has provided value to Foothills Forum already by guiding us on standards for transparency and expertise on insurance matters. INN, among others, pointed Columbia Journalism Review’s David Westphal to learning more about Foothills for his November 2017 series. (https://www.cjr.org/business_of_news/nonprofit-journalism-virginia.php). And we’re not even a member (yet). INN’s mission:

To provide education and business support services to our nonprofit member organizations and promote the value and benefit of public-service and investigative journalism.

Again, here’s the link to the VT Digger case study. As Foothills cofounder Bill Dietel noted, the strategic lessons from the case study are helpful for all sorts of nonprofits.


LION Publishers

This organization open to online news publishers has more than 225 members and puts on an annual conference. I attended the Chicago Every Block gathering a decade ago that launched what’s now known as LION.


Charlottesville Tomorrow

We turned to C’ville Tomorrow for help as we started Foothills Forum as an independent news nonprofit. We’re the country cousin to their older, bigger city mouse. Founder Brian Wheeler was an able mentor; he attended one of annual strategic retreats. He recently departed, and C’ville Tomorrow didn’t have to look far to find an experienced replacement. The announcement of new director Giles Morris includes a detailed interview and his thoughts on the importance of nonprofit journalism.


Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (IRJCI)

Veteran political reporter Al Cross is the power behind this center at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Foothills has merited a couple mentions as we’ve evolved. This is a go-to site for updates and research on how rural America gets and delivers its news.

The current post is about Gish Award winners Storm Lake Times, a recent Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial writing.


The Rural Blog is worth a regular check-in:


The Daily Yonder

The Daily Yonder describes itself as “your daily multi-media source of news, commentary, research and features.” It’s been around since 2007, established by the Center for Rural Strategies, a nonprofit media organization in Kentucky. I was impressed by current editor Tim Marema when he participated in a panel on rural/community journalism at the Knight Media Forum last February in Miami. The Yonder’s slogan: Keep it Rural.


That’s where I found this interesting development (via the Boston Globe) of how one Kentucky county of 20,000 provided telemedicine via a schools/university broadband partnership:


The Local Fix

We were introduced to Tom Glaisyer of The Democracy Fund by Matthew Black a while back on a visit to Rappahannock. Tom, in turn, introduced us to the Fund’s Public Square Program. Tom’s colleagues Josh Stearns and Teresa Gorman send out this weekly update that always starts with one good idea.



The Local Fix is a project of the Democracy Fund’s Public Square Program, which invests in innovations and institutions that are reinventing local media and expanding the public square.

Solutions Journalism

This nonprofit has taken a rigorous approach to a more proactive form of journalism: training and connecting journalists to “cover what’s missing in today’s news: how people are responding to problems.”


Saving Community Journalism

I’m reading a book loaned by Dennis Brack, by Penelope Muse Abernathy, the Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of North Carolina. It’s titled: Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Prosperity. It’s a readable look at how community journalism (as distinct from the 90 or so major metropolitan newspapers) is worth protecting and expanding.






Island Institute

I’m so glad I got introduced to this coastal Maine organization last fall. You’d be surprised how many common traits and issues Rappahannock County has in common with the Maine coastline: broadband, aging, natural resources, economy, environment. I’ve had a series of delightful conversations with the helpful folks at the Institute.


I look forward to reading The Working Waterfront, the Institute’s regular electronic newspaper.  Editor Tom Groening keeps it interesting and timely.


Yep, the FCC is concerned about sustaining the information needs of our communities. Read the FCC Information Needs of Communities report.


Nonprofit Quarterly

Innovative coverage for the nonprofit sector.


Nieman Lab

The work of the Nieman program at Harvard; home of one of journalism’s best fellowship programs. Sign up for the weekly Digest to stay current on the future of journalism.


John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Journalism, community, arts. Any question as to why I was fortunate to work at Knight for 14 years? Check out the “Finding a Foothold” report.



We’re also following coverage of nextLI, a Newsday project, because it spins great stories off the 2018 Long Island Index Report — a survey effort not unlike the Foothills Forum Survey.