RPD: 10 Gains As THE Community Forum

102nd in a 2022 Series*

The launch of the Mississippi Community Forum project last week put a charge in the cause for other newspapers in North America to join in. Based on The Bolivar Bullet’s experience (pictured above) in Cleveland, Miss., here are 10 more reasons why local newspaper should transform into THE Community Forum.
You’re valued as the:
News leader.
Trusted member of the community.
Convener to explore issues of importance.
Uniter.
Collaborator.
Haven for a meaningful exchange of ideas and perspectives.
Advocate for civil, civic discourse.
Responsible listener.
Proponent for positive change.

Respected moderator.
I could have added this one as well: Satisfaction you are making a difference.

–Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

*ABOUT THE SERIES: Our goal is to share a Relevant Point of the Day (RPD) each weekday throughout 2022. Our target is at least 222. Thank you for supporting The Relevance Project. Your success is our focus.

RPD: Uplifting ‘Great Work’ In Virginia

101st in a 2022 Series*

Virginians now have a source to find the “great work being done by Virginia’s local newspapers.” The aggregator? The Virginia Press Association, which today (June 16) launched its twice-weekly email newsletter, “Virginia News Reader.” Subscribers to the free service will “find news articles selected by our team of former journalists and editors. These stories spotlight important issues affecting local communities and keep citizens informed. You’ll also find stories that shed light on interesting people and events that provide valuable context to issues impacting your life.” VPA is the latest newspaper trade association to become more active in promoting its members by not assuming residents are seeing the trusted journalism being produced by the newspaper media. I’m also eager to read newsroom explanations that detail the story behind the stories, providing insights into how newsrooms operate, issues facing journalists, and the care that goes into accurate coverage. Virginia News Reader is the result of research commissioned by VPA that examined the roots of Relevant news coverage and what Virginias want and where they turn for news. Cheers to VPA for lifting up outstanding journalism in the state and reminding all that newspapers remain the news leader.

–Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

*ABOUT THE SERIES: Our goal is to share a Relevant Point of the Day (RPD) each weekday throughout 2022. Our target is at least 222. Thank you for supporting The Relevance Project. Your success is our focus.

RPD: A Message That Sticks Out

100th in a 2022 Series*

Found this bumper sticker in my information packet at the recent National Summit on Journalism in Rural America. Great message from the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media. Feel free to add the local angle. Make it stick.

–Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

*ABOUT THE SERIES: Our goal is to share a Relevant Point of the Day (RPD) each weekday throughout 2022. Our target is at least 222. Thank you for supporting The Relevance Project. Your success is our focus.

RPD: Hitting A High Note For Civic Discourse

99th in a 2022 Series*

CLEVELAND, MISS. — The Mississippi Delta is home to the American Blues. It’s now also the starting point for a North American initiative to transform local newspapers into THE Community Forum. Congratulations to Publisher Scott Coopwood of The Bolivar Bullet who moderated last night’s (June 8) first in a series of civil, civic conversations on issues of importance throughout the state of Mississippi. Coopwood (below, left) guided a panel of eight tourism advocates during an hour-plus discussion on ways the Mississippi Delta could “win more tourism.” After detailing the Delta’s strengths as a tourist attraction, the speakers hit on several opportunities to pursue, including marketing that pitches the region while detailing individual attractions. Bigger goals like improved housing, labor training, and schools were mentioned as well.

The Community Forum was held in the soundstage auditorium of the Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland, adjacent to the campus of Delta State University. About 50 interested readers (below) attended. (A raging thunderstorm might have caused some to stay home.)

The statewide initiative is sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council, which is applying a grant from the Mellon Foundation. (Exploring the role of local media in an engaged democracy is an important issue.) Also, the other sponsor is the Mississippi Press Association, whose executive director, Layne Bruce (below), explained the mission of the Community Forum project during introductory comments. Mississippi Press is the first trade association to collaborate with The Relevance Project in working with local newspapers to launch Community Forums in an organized way. (The Relevance Project is sponsored by Newspaper Association Managers and partly with a grant from the SNPA Foundation.)

It would not be the Delta without a musical performance, and the great-nephew of American Blues legend Muddy Waters, Keith Johnson (below), played two songs to close out the night. “Come to Mississippi: Birthplace of the Blues” was a fitting message to a night of civic engagement, led by a publisher who saw the benefits in becoming THE Community Forum.

Thanks to the Community Forum experience, at least one local newspaper wasn’t singing the blues about the future. It was doing something positive about it.

-Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

*ABOUT THE SERIES: Our goal is to share a Relevant Point of the Day (RPD) each weekday throughout 2022. Our target is at least 222. Thank you for supporting The Relevance Project. Your success is our focus.

RPD: Yes! Mississippi Project To Launch

98th in a 2022 Series*

The Relevance Project is in Mississippi this week for the state launch of the Community Forum initiative, which is sponsored by the Mississippi Press Association and the Mississippi Humanities Council. Tonight, The Bolivar Bullet will be the first newspaper to conduct the civil, civic conversation with its community on an issue of local importance. The Bullet, whose motto is “Truth, Logic and Common Sense,” will explore “How Does The Delta Win More Tourism?” with a panel of eight guest speakers at the Grammy Museum Mississippi. Scott Coopwood, publisher of The Bullet, will be the moderator. He gets a big Relevance Project cheer for grabbing the Community Forum transformative strategy and running with it. This being the Mississippi Delta, Coopwood even added a local distinction to further celebrate the northwest section of the state. Keith Johnson, the great-nephew of American blues great Muddy Waters, will give a “special performance.” The Mississippi Project was supposed to kick off in February, as readers of the Relevant Points blog know. COVID interrupted the original plan, but the Humanities Council graciously extended its support to later in the year. In a news story announcing the Community Forum, Coopwood said: “I’m pleased to be part of this unique tourism forum for the Delta. My thanks goes to Layne Bruce with the Mississippi Press Association, as well as the Mississippi Humanities Council and all of the participants, for helping us make this event happen. The strength and solidarity of the Delta’s cultural leaders, from throughout our region, will be represented at this forum as we seek to find the best ways to entice visitors to one of, if not the, greatest areas to visit in the country.” Here’s to The Bolivar Bullet becoming THE Community Forum in its region — and state.

–Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

Relevance Project Note: Don’t forget to check THE Community Forum page on www.relevanceproject.net

*ABOUT THE SERIES: Our goal is to share a Relevant Point of the Day (RPD) each weekday throughout 2022. Our target is at least 222. Thank you for supporting The Relevance Project. Your success is our focus.

RPD: A Relevance Lesson In Minnesota

97th in a 2022 Series*

Helmberger

Marshall Helmberger publishes the Timberjay with his wife, Jodi. Their success, they say, depends on Relevance. I’d add impressive dedication, devotion to their community, and a firm commitment to excellence. The spirited weekly covers 4,000 square miles in far northern Minnesota in what used to be a mining town that’s turned into a tourist destination because of its forest and lakes. Helmberger was a guest speaker at the recently concluded National Summit on Journalism in Rural America in Kentucky. He volunteered he was happy to hear about The Relevance Project, adding his wife often emphasizes being Relevant as a driving force to staying connected to their community. The reward: Engaged readers. He then offered how the Timberjay maintains its Relevance:
*Solid, fearless reporting on local and regional issues.
*Maintain independence.
*Show leadership in the community.
*Look for niches.
*Look for regional opportunity.
*Maintain an active and engaging website.

The next one wasn’t on his list, but it could have been as Helmberger said it was an important ingredient to successful local publishing:
Bring positive change to the community by informing them.
Agreed.
Helmberger’s definition will go into my collection of the many ways community news operations can be Relevant. In explaining how he became a publisher in Tower, MN, Helmberger said it bothered him that when another publication closed in the region, people in Warroad, MN, just “shrugged their shoulders.”
What happened?
The newspaper, he said, “lost its Relevance.”

–Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

CORRECTION: This Relevant Point has been updated to correct the location of the newspaper that shut down (Warroad, not Tower). Thanks to Al Cross of The Rural Blog for his reporting. Also, the headline has been changed to better reflect the Point.

*ABOUT THE SERIES: Our goal is to share a Relevant Point of the Day (RPD) each weekday throughout 2022. Our target is at least 222. Thank you for supporting The Relevance Project. Your success is our focus.

RPD: As Promised, Graphic Tout On Ad Trust

96th in a 2022 Series*

As promised, you now have the Metro Creative-designed promotion related to a Nielsen-exclusive-to-The-Relevance Project. The above graphic follows a Relevant Point and the May Newsletter that detailed the good news for newspapers in the The Nielsen Co.’s 2021 Trust in Advertising Study. Happy Monday!

–Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

Blog Note: I’ve resigned myself to now calling the 2022 series either Relevant Point of the Day or Relevant Daily Point. So when I type RDP in the headline, like I did again for No. 95, I won’t need a correction. Praise an editor today.

*ABOUT THE SERIES: Our goal is to share a Relevant Point of the Day (RPD) each weekday throughout 2022. Our target is at least 222. Thank you for supporting The Relevance Project. Your success is our focus.

RPD: Exploring The Future Of Rural America And Local Journalism

95th in a 2022 Series*

Al Cross (left) kicks off two days of intense exploration in search of solutions.

The first National Summit on Journalism in Rural America was 15 years ago. It didn’t, by design, have a theme. Instead, organizer Al Cross gathered interested parties with the expectation that solutions and best practices would be explored about Rural America and then acted on. On Friday and Saturday (June 3 and 4), Al Cross, who directs the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community and edits The Rural Blog, thought it was time for the second Summit. The 2022 conference sought answers from publishers, problem-solving organizations, journalism supporters, and academics to this question: How do rural communities sustain local journalism that supports local democracy? A jam-packed agenda covered a lot of ground, from the state of community journalism, to groups working to uplift the industry, to the roles of philanthropy and national funders, to newspapers being run as non-profit organization, to examples of journalism adapting to change, innovating and responding to coverage needs, to the research needed to help community journalism, and to new business models that can be viable options based on dynamic data. The Relevance Project was honored to be included. Our advocacy for newspapers to transform into THE Community Forum was well-received. Future Relevant Points will explain several takeaways. Cross and his University of Kentucky colleagues plan to compile a report on key findings from the 2022 Summit. It will be a must-read. In the meantime, we’ll savor our time at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hills in Harrodsburg, KY. It was a once thriving community that faced oblivion only to be saved by a collaborative effort. Shaker Village, now Kentucky’s largest National Historic Landmark, was a fitting setting for the rural journalism question that we need to keep asking.

–Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

*ABOUT THE SERIES: Our goal is to share a Relevant Point of the Day (RPD) each weekday throughout 2022. Our target is at least 222. Thank you for supporting The Relevance Project. Your success is our focus.

RPD: New ‘Cheers For Local News’

94th in a 2022 Series*

The best advocacy for local journalism comes from the front lines. That’s why The Relevance Project is proud to add three new promotions to its Support Local Journalism page that pack strong messages from newspaper leaders who don’t mince words. Looking for inspiration? The trio below delivers. All three are available for use by newspaper associations and their members. Go ahead and add messages from your local advocates to the series. Be sure to share with us as well. We have room to expand. And while you’re in the Cheers for Local News section on www.relevanceproject.net, check out the nearby When Local News Fails and The Election Season entries. 

–Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

Added Note: Our thanks to Metro Creative Graphics for the design work.

*ABOUT THE SERIES: Our goal is to share a Relevant Point of the Day (RPD) each weekday throughout 2022. Our target is at least 222. Thank you for supporting The Relevance Project. Your success is our focus.

RPD: Thumbs Up For SPJ

93rd in a 2022 Series*

If you are a journalist or publisher, join SPJ. When it comes to the Society of Professional Journalists, I am a supporter as a longtime member and former president of the Virginia Chapter. It is SPJ’s protection of First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech as well as the group’s dedication to high standards of ethical behavior that motivate me each year to renew my membership. If I were to pick one resource, among many, I would highlight JournalistsToolbox.org, which is SPJ’s “free website (that) has links to thousands of helpful websites, tools, research and more…” As of May, the toolbox contains “more than 20,000 free (and some paid) resources organized by beats on more than 125 searchable pages.” Both SPJ and the Journalist’s Toolbox have worthy e-newsletters, while SPJ organizes regional and national conferences as well an annual contest. SPJ membership also gets you a subscription to Quill, a quarterly magazine. To those already SPJ members, good move and stay involved. To everyone else, please join. It is an important investment in the present and future, as well as in yourself and fellow journalists. By the way, SPJ did not ask me to compose this testimonial. The recommendation is a natural act.

–Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

*ABOUT THE SERIES: Our goal is to share a Relevant Point of the Day (RPD) each weekday throughout 2022. Our target is at least 222. Thank you for supporting The Relevance Project. Your success is our focus.