Issue Based

Rural Funders Group: No News is Bad News - How to Support Vital Local Media in Rural Places

Rural Funders Group: No News is Bad News - How to Support Vital Local Media in Rural Places

Image of a farm land and homestead in Sublimity, Oregon

Event details

Tuesday, March 28, 2023
10:00am to 11:30am PDT

About this event

Reliable, independent journalism covering local matters is vital to civic and economic success in any community. However, access to the news is disappearing leaving many rural towns as "news deserts." This 2018 University of North Carolina report cites the closure or merger of nearly a third of 1,800 newspapers in rural communities. During the same time period, the 2006 Telecommunications Acts led to the deregulation of broadcast media and the consolidation of the radio and TV industry, making 10 companies own 90% of the broadcast outlets in the country. 
How does local media decline affect rural places, both economically and culturally? How are funders working to stem the loss, and give rural people the information lifeline that all communities need? Join us for this session to learn from:

  • The Institute of Nonprofit News, a network of 400 independent nonprofit and nonpartisan news organizations 
  • The North Carolina Local News Lab Fund, a pooled fund at the North Carolina Community Foundation that supports organizations working toward a healthier local news and information ecosystem; and
  • Solutions Journalism Network, a worldwide network of 50,000 journalists whose mission is to spread the practice of rigorous reporting about how people are responding to social problems


Melissa Cassut, Solutions Journalism Network

Melissa Cassutt is Solutions Journalism Network’s rural media manager. She works with rural-serving news outlets across the country and builds new relationships. She joined SJN in 2021 after working as a journalist and editor at publications across the Mountain West, most recently in Jackson, Wyoming, where she is based. She was named the 2016 Wyoming Press Association’s Young Journalist of the Year and received the Wyoming Woman of Influence Award in Media and Communications in 2019.


Lizzy Hazeltine, North Carolina Local News Lab Fund

Lizzy Hazeltine is the director of North Carolina Local News Lab Fund. She leads the fund’s overall strategy and portfolio, supports funders to maximize their impact, cultivates connections among organizations in the North Carolina news ecosystem and tracks and amplifies case studies and lessons learned. She also coaches teams in various national news transformation programs and supports industry-wide learning around revenue and DEI. To date, the fund has invested more than $2.4 million in 37 organizations. Lizzy’s journalism training began at UNC Chapel Hill.  


Ja'Nel Johnson-Phillips, Solutions Journalism Network

Ja'Nel Johnson-Phillips is Solutions Journalism Network's training & curriculum manager. She works with BIPOC journalists and newsrooms to expand the understanding and practice of solutions journalism. Ja’Nel is an accomplished journalist who has created a wide range of stories for radio, television and digital platforms. She has a passion for reporting on the Black experience and elevating the voices of underrepresented communities. Ja’Nel is a graduate of Claflin University and Northwestern University. She joined SJN in 2021.


Jonathan Kealing, Institute of Nonprofit News

Jonathan Kealing is the chief network officer at the Institute of Nonprofit News. He works to strengthen the collaboration among INN’s network of nonprofit newsrooms, develop partnerships and services that help them meet their missions and increase the reach and impact of their journalism. Jonathan oversees the Amplify News Project among Midwest newsrooms piloting news sharing and distribution models. He is especially interested in ways local and regional news organizations can work together with national organizations to extend the impact of their journalism.



Philanthropy Northwest's Rural Funders group is an opportunity for rural funders from across the country to discuss topics and learn best practices alongside peers who serve rural communities.

Registration and Sponsorship

In 2023, the Rural Funders Group calls will be free to Philanthropy Northwest members and $50 for non-members (limited scholarships available). Members must log in to register and get the member rate. 

If the series is relevant to your work and you wish to underwrite or sponsor the Rural Funders Group series, please contact Lyn Hunter. Our thanks to the Wyoming Community Foundation for their support.

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Who Already Registered
The Ford Family FoundationMissouri Foundation for HealthPhilanthropy NorthwestRasmuson FoundationHomer Foundation