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Meet a New Local News Owner (And NewStart Fellow)

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing the stories of new fellows entering our NewStart program as part of our second cohort.

If you follow us on Twitter, you may have seen mentions from several folks who have already been accepted.

That includes Maggie McGuire, who dropped some big news on Wednesday:
The deal to acquire the Moab Sun News has been in the works since November, and the paperwork for the deal was signed March 1.

It’s a quick rise for McGuire at the weekly publication. She was hired in 2019 as managing editor after spending time as a freelancer.

Now, she’s the owner.

“I’m really excited to quit being a back-seat driver and take my idea and put it to the test,” she said.

Journalism seems to be in McGuire’s blood. Both of her parents worked for their hometown paper in Michigan. And her great-grandfather also ran a newspaper.

Now, McGuire will learn via WVU's NewStart program how to carry on that tradition in new ways, including through the diversification of revenue sources and by engaging new and existing audiences.

“With fewer and fewer newspapers, that sense of community and the ability to draw on others’ experiences and not have to go it on your own is in danger,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to engaging with people who know how to run a newspaper and small business in the communities we’re serving. It’s probably not dinner table talk for everyone. … I’m really jazzed about sharing the nuts and bolts and sharing the experience with them.”

Until Year 2 of the NewStart program starts, McGuire is getting acclimated with the business side of the Sun News, and is looking for new ways to connect with her Moab community. For example, she donated years of leather-bound editions of the paper to the public library, where they are now available in a local history section for the community to explore and learn from. 

“Being able to share that with the community in general, and increase their awareness of what’s gone on over past 10 years, I just love it,” she said. “That’s been, overall, the thing that has excited me the most. I’m excited for all the ways the paper can expand the sense of the community, (showcase) itself as a viable business, but that it also is a social good and serves a social purpose. It’s really cool. We’re not just selling burgers, so that’s rad. I’m 100 percent getting to live my values, and that’s awesome.”

NewStart Update

Hey, you there!
Yes, you!

Are you interested in enrolling in our online master's degree program and earning a degree in Media Solutions and Innovation? Yes? Great! The application period is now open to everyone! We have a limited number of slots, and they are already starting to be filled.

You can find out more about the program at this link, and then you can apply by clicking/tapping on the button below and following the instructions:
Apply Now
As a reminder, we also started a Facebook page for the NewStart program. So feel free to like or follow our page to check out some interesting links and thoughts each and every week and join in on the discussion.
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An Oasis And More

I wanted to point out a number of great resources that have been released recently to help those who are interested in starting or acquiring local news publications.

Project Oasis was released into the wild with three primary resources: 
  • A publication database to obtain information about locally focused digital news publications in the U.S. and Canada, including an outlet's tax status, editorial strategy, years in operation and more.
  • A research report with insights into the digital news industry's growth
  • A playbook for aspiring news entrepreneurs to launch their own publications
All of these are totally worth your time to dive into, so do it this weekend.

Then there is the Tiny News Collective, which opened up its application period for those who are looking to start new digital news initiatives.

You can see the application guidelines here. I will stress that this is for totally new publications, and is really geared for those who have a very, very small staff.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the TNC project is the backend CMS that was built. It is based on Google Docs. Really. Here's Tyler Fisher explaining how it works:
A walkthrough of the Tiny News CMS.
And then there is the Healthy Local News & Information Ecosystems" report that was released earlier this month (and mentioned in a previous NewStart newsletter) by the Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund, Google News Initiative and Impact Architects to help communities (and potential media entrepreneurs) assess the health of local news ecosystems.

You can read about the report here, and then dive into the following: The toolkit alone is an impressive first step to determine the makeup of your community, its information providers and how they intersect. The playbook provides many case studies to evaluate opportunities in local markets.

Once again, take some time this weekend to immerse yourself in all of this valuable information.

Baseball Cards and News Articles

We talked last week about NFTs and how media companies like Bleacher Report are making some cash off of them.

The story has gotten even bigger since then. 

The AP pulled in about $180k in an NFT sale. Quartz is trying its own NFT sale of a news article, and Nieman Lab is now writing about it.

Clearly there is something to all of this. 

I also read an article in The Athletic last week about baseball cards becoming hot again. I collected the heck out of them back in the day, and pretty much all of those cards are worthless now, even though we all thought they would pay for our kids' college education someday.

I did, however, sell a single GI Joe figure for like $400 recently, which was cool. So in the end, remember this: something is only worth as much as someone else is willing to pay for it. Some people are looking for ways to make a quick buck, and others are looking for new ways to spend their money during these pandemic times. 

NFTs, however, are a risky proposition at the moment, because you don't know if these things literally are going to last. (I mean, at least you can physically touch your old baseball cards, right?) Someone will make NFT preservation fool-proof eventually, but right now it is buyer beware. Someone should have given me similar advice when I was hoarding all of those Gregg Jeffries rookie cards as a kid...

Quick Hits

Here is a lot of informative news from around the world of local journalism. Enjoy! 

Learn: Check out this overview of some of the top takeaways from the forum. "For Shaw Media, the most promising source of digital revenue growth is through their digital subscriptions, which is why the organization recently launched Shaw Local, a digital local news network covering northern Illinois. It includes all of Shaw Media’s local news coverage from its 53 Illinois newspapers and magazines." "It’s a cliche to say that advertising delivers digital dimes compared to print dollars. But for evidence of the magnitude of this difference, look no further than earnings data from The New York Times." "We ultimately decided not to write about Mandel’s call for DeWine to lift his coronavirus restrictions. Mandel is pretty much a nobody right now, a nobody begging for people to notice his Tweets a year ahead of the Senate primary. Just because he makes outrageous, dangerous statements doesn’t mean it is news. He remains desperate for attention." "The majority of news outlets in Pennsylvania rank high on trustworthiness, but there is a growing crop of digital sites with ties to both Democratic and Republican groups that are taking hold in the state with few, if any, disclaimers about their partisan motives." “The market is in a state of chaos, many large publishers are in ‘shock freeze’ — at least in the short-term — while everyone figures out what to do next.”

Deals: "After more than a decade of corporate ownership, The Gadsden County Times is returning to its roots as a locally owned newspaper." The Chesterton Tribune is coming back as a twice-weekly with a fresh, full-color layout, expected to debut in the next two to three weeks.


That's all for this week. 

You can follow NewStart on Twitter @wvunewstart, and you can @ me @jimiovino.

Be like the fine folks at the Knight Foundation and the Benedum Foundation! Fund a NewStart fellowship position or a scholarship in Year 2! I'd be happy to talk! Seriously, I would love to offer more fellowships and scholarships, and you can help!

And don't forget, you can find NewStart online at

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Thanks again, stay safe, and we'll talk soon.
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