FROM THE FOUNDERS: Why nonprofit news matters now more than ever

I have wanted to be a news reporter since I was a kid carrying a notebook around my neighborhood and on my school playground, jotting down interesting things people were doing and saying.

Years later, journalism degree in hand, I launched into a career of reporting and producing in TV, radio and print newsrooms. I have loved every minute of it. There have been so many important stories to tell: the fall of the Soviet Union (yes, I’m that old), presidential elections, terror attacks, climate change, social justice movements… 

Before co-founding the Marblehead Current, all my previous journalism jobs were with for-profit networks and companies, and while I never felt pressured to cover a story in a certain way, I knew not all the news we wrote was helping people or advancing public discourse.

While at a Boston TV station, we covered the O.J. Simpson trial relentlessly to huge ratings.  More and more, we focused on stories we knew would grab people’s attention, even if those stories didn’t inform or educate viewers. (I remember producing a two-minute TV story on plastic surgery for pets. It aired to big ratings across the country.)

As the internet became more popular and ad revenue started drying up for TV, radio and print outlets, I began to watch — with an increasingly broken heart — newsrooms shrink and, for many papers, close. There were more and more layoffs, and a stronger focus on those sexy or divisive stories that would grab viewers’ attention.

It was truly distressing to watch an industry I had always revered — that is critical to our democracy — begin to wither away.

That is why I am so passionate about the Current. Along with my co-founders, I immediately gravitated towards the nonprofit model. As veteran journalists, we all believe that the best way forward is as an independent, nonprofit and locally led newspaper. We aren’t funded by a corporate owner. We rely not only on local advertisers, but also on community support, donations and grants. 

The Current (along with a growing number of other independent, nonprofit news organizations around the country) is leading a movement that will make news stronger, more resilient, impactful and trusted than ever before. 

We report stories that matter to my Marblehead neighbors and community. They inform and, hopefully, inspire. Whether we write about an override vote, a star student athlete or a senior citizen with an incredible, untold story, these articles bring us together as a community and make us better informed and more connected. 

The Current founders, journalists and board members invite you to join this exciting movement, and read and support our paper. 

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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