–30– With A But…

This marks the end for my time as the compensated Executive Director of The Relevance Project.

For 2 1/2 years, National Newspaper Managers (NAM) boldly provided the seed investment for a lead role in advancing the initiative. It delivered advocacy for local newspapers, best practices to supplement training efforts, better ways to tell the story of newspapers, programs at conferences, and the first-ever toolkit that allows newspapers to grow into THE Community Forum.

Tom Silvestri (Credit: Richmond Times Dispatch)

Credit also the SNPA Foundation for adding to NAM’s support with two grants. SNPA is unusual in understanding the importance of Relevance in touting the effectiveness and the crucial value of newspapers.

I thank NAM and its Board for the opportunity and backing. In particular, I appreciate all of the extra time Michelle Rea (New York), Steve Nixon (Canada), Mark Maassen (Missouri), Beth Bennett (Wisconsin), Phil Lucey (North Carolina), Laurie Hieb (Oregon and current NAM president) and Layne Bruce (Mississippi) afforded the project. These executive directors of press associations are fearless in their defense of newspapers and resolutely determined to find innovative ways to sustain trusted local journalism and solution-based revenue generation.

Everything good has a beginning, middle and end, and there’s no such thing as an unlimited supply of money to do all the things needed to compete in a complicated media world — or fight the good fight on behalf of community newspapers.

The work of The Relevance Project will remain on www.relevanceproject.net (special thanks to Metro Creative Graphics for the design work on the offerings) and don’t be surprised if you see updates from time to time.

What’s ahead?

The Community Forum is a transformative strategy — even a future-focused business model. The Relevance Project only scratched the surface on its concepts, implementation and possibilities. Democracy needs civil discourse on issues of importance to thrive. Citizens need a safe public square to collaborate on routes to a better quality of life for all residents.

A huge void exists.

I’m going to stay at it, looking for new backers and grant providers who also believe in the Community Forum and its rich potential. We can build on an experiment this year in Mississippi where three newspapers launched Community Forums and on the experience of pioneers in other states.

Staying Relevant for the newspaper media means being super-connected with their communities. The reward is a growing audience and all that it brings.

The work continues.

–Tom Silvestri

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