VTDigger.org and The Vermont Journalism Trust have merged.
At a joint meeting of the boards of VTDigger.org and Vermont Journalism Trust, the directors of the two nonprofit organizations decided unanimously to combine operations.
Vermont Journalism Trust will be the umbrella organization for VTDigger.org. The web site will continue to operate under the VTDigger.org moniker.
The online news site VTDigger.org was established by Anne Galloway of East Hardwick and began publishing on Aug. 31, 2009. According to Galloway, its founding editor, the choice to produce in-depth news vital to Vermonters online and via the nonprofit model was dictated by conditions in journalism today.
“The economic model that since the mid-19th century has supported print journalism is in steep decline,” Galloway explained. “Classified and display advertising has migrated to the Web and subscription revenue has been steadily eroded by declining readership and the availability of free news from other media outlets. Investigative journalism and beat reporting have been especially hard hit. We wanted to produce in-depth journalism vital to Vermonters within a sustainable economic model. Our objective is also to fill gaps in the media landscape. We have already begun collaborative arrangements with several news outlets.”
According to Bill Schubart, one of the five founders, of The Vermont Journalism Trust was established to fund in-depth journalism in traditional and emerging media.
“We started with the idea that a free and open press is fundamental to a citizen’s role in the conduct of democratic government,” Schubart said. “Recent declines in the funding and publication of in-depth and investigative journalism constitute a threat to the democratic process. Our model for supporting serious journalism was ProPublica.org. The Trust’s goal is to fund comprehensive reporting within Vermont and to make it available to all existing outlets in print, radio and TV. In the merger, neither our goal nor the goal of VTDigger has changed. We are essentially medium and channel agnostic.”
Galloway explained the online rationale of VTDigger.org. “People often confuse production medium and distribution channel,” Galloway said. “Online news distribution is the only platform on which an editor can produce in text, still image, audio and video. TV, radio and news print are defined largely by their production medium, whereas online news production can mix and match the most effective medium to convey information. Online, we have the technical freedom to use all media to publish news and ideas.”
Clifton said, “VTDigger.org is the ideal platform on which to build out Vermont Journalism Trust’s commitment to expanding quality journalism in all media.”
Doug Clifton, a founding director of The Vermont Journalism Trust and former editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and former executive editor and senior vice president of the Miami Herald, said the goal of the merger is to support reporting on matters of public policy.
“The complementary nature of the two organizations drove the early merger exploration,” Clifton said. “The clear success of VTDigger.org in developing consistent, in-depth reporting on government, economic, business and environmental news for Vermonters realized in part our own mission. VTDigger.org is the ideal platform on which to build out Vermont Journalism Trust’s commitment to expanding quality journalism in all media.”
Con Hogan, a director of VTDigger.org, who will continue on the combined board noted that “the time for competitive scoop journalism in print is past.”
“With broadcast media carving seconds off their delivery of breaking news, the deeper more analytical news that we produce becomes more and more suited to a cooperative model in which traditional news organizations exchange and share in-depth stories,” Hogan said. “VTDigger.org is pioneering some of that sharing now with other news outlets and the combined resources of VTDigger.org and the Vermont Journalism Trust will only enhance this model. If the goal is to better serve Vermont readers with high integrity content, then sharing that content across outlets and platforms makes sense. “
The economic model for the merged entity will combine philanthropy, foundation support, business sponsorship, and a voluntary subscription model akin to the public broadcast model. VTDigger.org has already been recognized by J-Lab and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in support of its mission to provide interactive news platforms and to give Vermonters a deeper look at their community.