By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: Kate Maxwell

The Mendo Voice goes nonprofit as co-founder Kate Maxwell moves on

Kate Maxwell working out of borrowed space in March 2020. Photo (cc) 2020 by Dan Kennedy.

There’s big news in the world of hyperlocal journalism this week: Kate Maxwell, the co-founder and publisher of The Mendocino Voice in Northern California, is moving on. The Voice, which is nominally a for-profit, is becoming part of the nonprofit Bay City News Foundation, which, according to an announcement on Tuesday, “will allow both organizations to expand the geographic reach and depth of their public service reporting.”

In a message to readers, Maxwell writes that “as part of this new chapter, I’ve chosen to move on from my role as publisher.” No word as to what she’ll do next. She adds:

Thanks to your support, we’ve published nearly 5,000 articles, reached millions of readers, created living wage jobs for experienced local reporters, held government officials accountable, received national funding and awards, and shared important Mendocino stories with readers around the state and country. Most importantly, we’ve been able to provide the diverse communities in Mendocino with news that’s been useful to you, our friends and neighbors.

Although the Voice will continue as a standalone free website, it will do so without either of the co-founders. The site’s first editor, Adrian Fernandez Baumann, left several years ago. Here’s part of an FAQ explaining what the change will mean for readers:

This partnership will give The Mendocino Voice the stability to maintain its news operation and support its journalists. It’ll create a regional network all along the coast as well as the inland areas and give reporters the opportunity to grow. It’s a promise of long-term sustainability. Joining with Bay City News Foundation means that we’ll have the capacity for deeper coverage of environmental issues, plus more resources for bringing you that news, including more photographers, data journalists and round-the-clock editors.

The Mendo Voice was the first project I visited in my reporting for “What Works in Community News.” I was on the ground during the first week of March in 2020, and we all know what happened that week. I covered an event the Voice hosted at a local brewpub on Super Tuesday, which I reported on for GBH News. Two days later, I was on hand as Maxwell and Baumann reported on a news conference to announce the first measures being taken in response to what was then called the “novel coronavirus.” The nationwide shutdown loomed.

The reason I wanted to include The Mendo Voice in the book that Ellen Clegg and I were writing was that Maxwell and Baumann were planning to convert the project they had founded in 2016 to a cooperative form of ownership. “We are going to be owned by our readers and our staff,” Maxwell told the Super Tuesday gathering. “We think that’s the best way to be sustainable and locally owned.”

After years of following a nascent news co-op in Haverhill, Massachusetts, which ultimately failed to launch, I was intrigued. Unfortunately, the co-op that Maxwell and Baumann envisioned did not come to pass, either. COVID-19 wreaked havoc with their plans, though the Voice continued to publish and provide “useful news for all of Mendocino.”  Baumann took a personal leave that ended up becoming permanent. And Maxwell was unable to move ahead with the community meetings she had envisioned to make the co-op a reality. “I think we basically had a year’s worth of events that we were planning,” she told me in 2022.

By then, the Voice was essentially operating as a hybrid — a for-profit that had a relationship with a nonprofit organization that allowed for tax-deductible donations to support the Voice’s reporting. Eventually, she said, the site was likely to move toward a more traditional nonprofit model.

The co-op idea is an interesting one, but to this day I’m not aware of a successful example at the local level. The Defector has made it work, but that’s a national project. In Akron, Ohio, The Devil Strip, an arts-focused magazine and website, tried for a while but then collapsed in an ugly fashion.

Maxwell and Baumann, two young journalists who launched The Mendocino Voice after leaving jobs at Mendo County newspapers being destroyed by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, built something of lasting value. Best wishes to both of them.

Leave a comment | Read comments

Could Boston’s two newsy public radio stations merge? Plus, local news tidbits.

WBUR’s CitySpace. Photo (cc) 2023 by Todd Van Hoosear

Before social media, when blogging was everything, a lot of us wrote what were known as “link blogs” — that is, a running list of links with little in the way of commentary. Now that social media is (are?) falling apart as a way for distributing journalism, I’m trying to get back to that, mixing in some short posts with longer pieces.

But there’s a problem. I have a sizable contingent of readers who receive new posts by email and, at least at the moment, I don’t have a way of giving them the option of receiving one daily email with the day’s posts. I’d like to do something about that once the semester ends and I have some time. No one wants to receive multiple emails with short posts throughout the day. So here are three media stories I don’t want you to miss, pulled together in one post.

• Boston Globe media reporter Aidan Ryan follows up the paper’s recent stories on struggles at the city’s two news-oriented public radio stations, GBH (89.7 FM) and WBUR (90.9 FM), with a closer look at whether both of them can survive in their current form. As someone who was a paid contributor to GBH News from 1998 to 2022, I have to say a lot of us were puzzled in 2009 when GBH announced it would turn its classical- and jazz-oriented radio station into a direct competitor with WBUR. You might say that it worked until it didn’t, and now there are some serious questions. The most provocative: Could the two radio stations merge? The answer: Probably not, but who knows?

• The local news crisis has led a number of college and university journalism programs to step up with their own solutions. At Northeastern, for instance, we publish The Scope, a grant-supported digital publication that covers social-justice issues in Greater Boston. Well, The Daily Iowan, an independent nonprofit newspaper that covers the University of Iowa, is going several steps further than that, acquiring two struggling weekly community newspapers. “It’s a really great way to help the problem of news deserts in rural areas,” the paper’s executive editor, Sabine Martin, told The Associated Press.

I contacted the paper to ask whether students who report for the weeklies will be paid. Publisher Jason Drummond responded that the details are still being worked out, but that students will be paid for work they produce exclusively for the weeklies, which are also in the process of hiring paid student interns. The weeklies will be able to pick up stories from The Daily Iowan for free, but the Iowan’s staff members are already paid.

• Four years ago I visited The Mendocino Voice, which covers a rural area in Northern California; it was my first reporting trip for “What Works in Community News.” The Voice, I learned, has to devote a lot of its resources to covering the state’s extreme weather, especially wildfires. Now the Voice’s publisher and co-founder, Kate Maxwell, is putting together a Local News Go Bag Toolkit so that local news organizations can prepare for emergencies. “The emphasis is on preparing before a disaster — it’s the most important step that journalists, newsrooms, and communities can take. This project is designed to be useful for local newsrooms and journalists at any stage of a disaster,” writes Maxwell, who’s currently a fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. The toolkit is a work in progress, and she’s asking for ideas from other journalists.

Leave a comment | Read comments

Cooperatively owned local news outlets are still an unfulfilled dream

Good to see that some journalists are trying cooperatively owned news projects, as Lauren Mechling reports for The Guardian. One of our frustrations in finding news organizations to write about in “What Works in Community News” was that there were no examples we could find of a successful local news co-op.

The for-profit Mendocino Voice in Northern California considered it but got overwhelmed during the COVID pandemic. As I was wrapping up my reporting, publisher Kate Maxwell told me she was more likely to shift to the nonprofit model rather than pursue a co-op. I spent years following efforts to start a co-op in Haverhill, which were eventually wound down because of fundraising problems. And The Devil Strip in Akron, Ohio, fell apart.

It’s still an interesting idea. Co-author Ellen Clegg and I believe that we need diversity in ownership models. For-profit startups tend to be tiny, and most of the ones with much in the way of reporting capacity are nonprofits. A news outlet owned by the staff and the community would be an interesting alternative. Maybe someday.

Leave a comment | Read comments

Sahan Journal’s founder to step down; plus, news from Mendo County and New Jersey

Sahan Journal’s 2021 Impact Report

With the January 2024 publication date of our book, “What Works in Community News,” drawing ever closer, we want to keep you up to date on new developments at the projects that we track.

The big news today is that Mukhtar Ibrahim, the founder of Sahan Journal, is stepping down as chief executive officer. Ibrahim launched the nonprofit (relaunched, actually; it’s complicated) five years ago to cover Minnesota’s immigrants and communities of color. He writes:

I am proud of the remarkable success story that our dedicated staff has built. We have grown from a four-person newsroom to an amazing and talented team of 20, covering a wide range of essential topics and producing innovative multimedia content. We have built an equitable, transparent, and responsive work culture that supports the professional development and well-being of every staff member.

Kate Maxwell, the publisher and co-founder of The Mendocino Voice in Northern California, has written a useful guide for the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri aimed at newsrooms looking to put together a kit to be used when covering emergencies. It’s a need that the Voice is experienced with, given that it covers an area frequently hit by wildfires. Maxwell begins:

For newsrooms preparing to cover emergencies, there are a range of material and operational considerations to examine such as necessary equipment, staff support and schedules, and how to stay safe in the middle of a disaster. Planning the practical ways you will communicate with each other and community members, and how to get crucial information out to the people who need it, is an essential part of preparing your newsroom and your community for an emergency.

Finally, Joe Amditis of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University in New Jersey, tells us about a collaborative effort to put together ahead of next week’s legislative elections. The guide, NJ Decides 2023, was put together by the center; NJ Spotlight News, one of the media organizations that we profile in our book; and the NJ Civic Information Consortium, a publicly funded effort to bolster local news in New Jersey.

A number of other news outlets assisted with reporting, and the guide is available not only in English but also in Chinese, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu and Korean. According to Amditis:

The collaborative then split the races up, with journalists from each news organization claiming the candidates they would commit to chase down.

Collaborative members sent hundreds of emails, social media messages, text messages and phone calls trying to convince candidates to fill out the form. Many did so immediately; others needed to be reminded multiple times.

Leave a comment | Read comments

A pioneering cooperatively owned media outlet turns off the lights

Update: Laura Hazard Owen has more — a lot more — at Nieman Lab. Pretty ugly stuff.


The Devil Strip, a pioneering cooperatively owned magazine in Akron, Ohio, has closed its doors. More of an arts and culture outlet than a news organization, the operation has nevertheless stood as a successful example of an independent project owned by its employees and the community.

WKYC reports that the end came over the weekend — staff members were told on Friday that the money had run out, and on Monday they received layoff notices. The station adds:

Founded in 2014, The Devil Strip was a community-owned magazine that focused on music, arts, news, and culture in Akron. For as little as a dollar a month, readers had the opportunity to become members of the co-op. An investment of $330 allowed you to become a co-owner.

More from The Devil Strip’s Twitter account:

In March 2020, I spent a week in Northern California reporting on The Mendocino Voice, a for-profit news site that was converting to cooperative ownership. At that time the founders, publisher Kate Maxwell and editor Adrian Fernandez Baumann, told me that The Devil Strip was one of the projects they had studied.

I hope The Devil Strip might be able to reorganize and come back, though the tweet makes it sound like they’ve hit the end of the road. Founder Chris Horne has not tweeted about it except for a cryptic reference to a “sabbatical.” I’m sure he’ll have more to say soon.

Become a member of Media Nation for just $5 a month!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén