We love buying and eating local. Let’s also love supporting local journalism.
The health of our communities depends on it, and Pactio can help you do it.
As I walked through a crowded local farmers’ market recently, I noticed most stalls had a sign that said “we grow what we sell” and then listed where the produce was locally grown. I bought some cherries, oranges and flowers and walked away feeling proud to support local businesses. I then noticed my flowers were wrapped in The New York Times, and that was a locally grown buzzkill.
As the number of farmers’ markets, craft breweries and farm-to-table restaurants have grown, local journalism has experienced a rapid decline. For perspective: The number of farmers’ markets registered with the United States Department of Agriculture grew nearly 80 percent between 1994 and 2017. Meanwhile between 1990 and 2016, local newspapers lost nearly 60% of their staff, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s time to put local journalism on the same trajectory as other local businesses. That’s why I’m co-founding Pactio, a platform that connects readers who want to support impactful local journalism to independent journalists looking for sustainable funding to report on their communities.
Why I believe we can rebuild local journalism with Pactio
My local journalism research over the last year as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford led me to Pactio. In a couple dozen interviews conducted across the country by fellow JSK Fellows and me, I learned that individuals get more news and information from the people they interact with than they do from local news sources. For example, one Bay Area mother is part of a WeChat group with 500 people, who are commenting on issues impacting their community and sharing tips on local resources like doctors. Others are on NextDoor and many play a game of telephone with family and friends to get local information.
Pactio wants to integrate the comfort of hearing news and information from people you trust with accurate and in-depth reporting on our local communities. The idea is the brainchild of my co-founder, Adriano Farano. We want to ensure your community has reporters who are holding your local government, business and school leaders accountable. We want to ensure that your community is a safe and healthy place to live. We want to be your sounding board for your questions and concerns about your community, and we want to help you find others who care about the same issues.
Why this matters
Local journalism is the backbone of a healthy news ecosystem. Major national stories are consistently emerging from the reporting of local journalists. The Indianapolis Star was the first to uncover decades of sexual abuse by USA Gymnastics’ doctor Larry Nassar, a story that made major headlines earlier this year when Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison. In 2017, the East Bay Times won the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland that killed 36 people. “After the fire, a civil suit brought by victims’ parents against the warehouse owners cited reporting done by the East Bay Times,” Wired reported last year. This happens all the time. Take a look at CNN, The Washington Post or The New York Times any day and you’ll find stories inspired by local new outlets. Yet local journalism is fading away and that will impact not only the major news outlets but the health of our communities.
Here is Pactio’s plan
Pactio is designed to restore trust, accessibility and personalization to journalism. We are channeling the desire to hear local news from family and friends by building small communities of passionate residents around journalists you can actually get to know. At a minimum of $3 per month, we ask the community to financially support the journalist to cover a beat. The journalist then commits to answering your questions, facilitating conversations among members and uncovering the most important and relevant stories.
We’re asking you to consider giving up two coffees a month to support a local journalist in your community. If you’re in Los Angeles, consider supporting our first journalist, Molly Peterson. For $5 per month, you can support her reporting on urban heat in Los Angeles and the impact it is having on schools and individuals across the city.
If you’d like to support us, but there isn’t a journalist in your community, then email me. We are committed to finding journalists to cover communities of truth-seeking people.
If you’re a journalist looking for funding to cover your community, I want to hear from you. You can reach me at julieann at pactio dot us or fill out our interest form.
We are also looking for partners passionate about sustainable local journalism. We are grateful to The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships and StartX for being early partners.
Join us in not only eating local, buying local and drinking local, but in committing to reading and supporting local journalism.