Panelists discuss future plans to improve quality of journalism around the state. (
By Kyra Howard
June 15, 2023
Local news coverage is beginning to thrive in Indiana with several online news organizations taking root and a new newsroom to be opened by the end of the year.
VOX Indy and Chalkbeat Indiana hosted a panel Tuesday in Indianapolis that highlighted these changes in Indiana’s news market while discussing the future of local news.
Indianapolis journalists Camike Jones, Editor-in-Chief of the Indianapolis Recorder, MJ Slaby, Bureau Chief of Chalkbeat Indiana and Karen Ferguson Fuson, Board Chair of the Indiana Local News Initiative spoke on the panel. They discussed nonprofit outlets emerging in Indiana and what this means for media consumers.
The event began with time for attendees to network. The loud chatter declined as everyone sat down to hear other journalists share information about their organizations–Axios Indianapolis, Indiana Capital Chronicle and State Affairs Indiana. After the introduction of these nonprofit news outlets the panel discussion took place. It was guided by a moderator who asked a few questions before allowing the audience to jump in.
In response to the first question Fuson shared her perspective on the cutbacks of journalism positions, describing it as a ‘crisis’.
“I believe, and national research shows, that journalists and local news help connect people to their communities and help support our democracy,” said Fuson. “With such a significant decline in journalists, I believe information that we all need to live our day to day lives is not being provided to us. And so that, in my mind, is a crisis impacting our democracy.”
Indiana has seen an uptick in nonprofit news organizations such as Axios Indianapolis, The Indiana Capital Chronicle, State Affairs Indiana, even as journalism employment continues to decline across the country. The Pew Research center found that U.S newsroom employment has fallen by 26% since 2008. A 2016 article from The Guardian explained the fall of US newspaper jobs by almost 60% from 1990-2016.
The Indiana Local News Initiative is another nonprofit newsroom that plans to launch later this year. The Initiative is a new nonprofit formed by a coalition of locally based organizations and the American Journalism Project, according to its website. Its mission is to provide residents with accessible local news that reflects the community’s needs.Through Indiana organizations and philanthropies the AJP raised $10 million to create the Indiana Local News Initiative.
The need for the Initiative was shown in a comprehensive study done by the American Journalism Project. The study found that “more than 1,000 Hoosiers across 79 counties said they needed more unbiased, fact based information about their communities” according to the Indiana Local News Initiative site.
Speaking to The Statehouse File, Michael Ouimette, chief investment officer for the American Journalism Project and board member for the Indiana Local News Initiative, explained the steps AJP took to create the initiative after the study was complete.
“We partner to develop a set of solutions, in this case the Indiana Local News Initiative, and we work to rally interest from local philanthropists who see an incredible and urgent need for more local journalism in Indiana,” said Ouimette. “We recently announced our founding governing board. It is a really exceptional group of leaders who have come together to dedicate their time to local news. We’ve also made our first two staff hires and we’ll be hiring another 25 people or so by the end of the year.”
The initiative has three main strategies–fill gaps in local news by launching nonprofit organizations, facilitate investments in partner news organizations and foster collaboration between local news outlets, said Ouimette.
TheStatehouseFile.com is one example of a partnership between the initiative and a local news outlet. TSF received a $180,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation. TSF was able to eliminate its paywall on its website, allowing anyone to read the content produced by student journalists every day. Additionally, any news outlet in Indiana is now able to run TSF content without paying any sort of fee.
They are also partnered with IndyStar, WISH-TV, WFYI, the Recorder, Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism, Chalkbeat Indiana, Hoosier State Press Association, The Indiana Citizen and more.
Ouimette said the Indiana Local News Initiative will keep working to fill gaps in local news so Hoosiers have access to important information.
“Local news is so important because it holds communities together. It equips residents with the information they need to engage in civic life and have information about what’s going on in their schools, gives them information to hold their government officials accountable for their roles and responsibilities in the community, it helps build empathy and community and celebrate the vitality of Indiana. That’s why it’s so important that we have more local journalists on the beat doing this great work,” said Ouimette.
Fuson said the Indiana Local News Initiative is committed to making communities feel heard. This means implementing the feedback Hoosiers give by creating a news room that represents the population, having reporters out in the community on a regular basis and including residents wherever possible.
The initiative has hired Ariana Beedie as the community journalism director. A journalist who most recently served as director of neighborhood engagement with the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, Beedie is currently recruiting Indiana residents for a paid program to attend public meetings and take notes for news outlets to use in stories.
“Her job is to create ongoing listening sessions with the community and understand what they’re interested in knowing, what they need to know and then delivering on that,” said Fuson. “It’s a circle. It’s a never ending circle. It’s not a straight line and I think the continuous feedback at all points in the process and then after is really important.”
Ouimette said it is a unique time for Indiana journalism and is looking forward to the future of the local media organizations.
“There’s a national movement in communities across the country for philanthropy to play a catalytic role in building a much more robust local news sector in this country,” said Ouimette. “It’s really exciting that Indiana is playing a leading role in ensuring that in a generation from now, dozens and dozens of nonprofit news organizations play a vital role in the civic life of our communities.”
Kyra Howard is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.