The governance structure of The Worcester Guardian, a fledgling nonprofit begun by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, is starting to become clearer. A message by consultant Dave Nordman, the former executive editor of the city’s daily, the Telegram & Gazette, says that the Guardian will have an independent board of directors in addition to a community advisory board. The Chamber has committed $50,000 to the launch, but Nordman says the intention is for the Guardian to be a fully independent news organization.
The aim, Nordman told me by email, is “total separation.” He said that Chamber president and CEO Tim Murray will probably have one of nine seats on the board but will not serve as the chair. “The board’s main responsibility,” Nordman said, “will be to rally the community.” The announcement of an editor, he added, is imminent.
The original announcement raised questions about how closely the Chamber would be tied to the Guardian. Nordman’s assurances makes it more likely that the Guardian will be accepted by the Institute for Nonprofit News, or INN, which would be a crucial step for credibility and fundraising. The Guardian’s inaugural governing documents also tracked too closely with the INN’s policies as well as the mission statement of The New Bedford Light, a large nonprofit, as reported by Bill Shaner of the newsletter Worcester Sucks and I Love It. Nordman, though, is a pro, and his involvement suggests that the Guardian will get off to a strong start. (Nordman is also a colleague of mine at Northeastern.) Nordman writes in his message at the Guardian’s website:
I believe free, nonprofit, independent news could provide a dynamic new platform to tell the Central Massachusetts story and report on important issues impacting Worcester and the region.
I believe mistakes will be made and lessons will be learned along the way.
I believe nonprofit, for-profit and independent journalism can co-exist. I believe blogs and social media also provide a forum for healthy discourse.
And I believe Murray when he says he will allow the Guardian to tell the story of Worcester independent of the chamber.
The community will be watching.
The Worcester area is not exactly a news desert, although local residents have lamented deep cuts at the Telegram & Gazette under Gannett’s ownership. MassLive, part of The Republican of Springfield, publishes a fair amount of Worcester news. GBH News has a Worcester bureau. The 016.com aggregates news from the Worcester area as well. Still, a Worcester-based nonprofit, grounded in community values, would be a welcome addition to Central Massachusetts.