Six years ago, Rappahannock County, Virginia’s story was a familiar one. A rolling, mountainous landscape with no interstates and a single flashing red light, the county was at risk of becoming a news desert, and the local outlet, Rappahannock News, was struggling.

“We’re representative of a lot of communities in America that are rural,” said Larry Meyer. A career editor, newsman, and foundation executive, he recognized the potential for Rappahannock News to vanish altogether. So, in collaboration with longtime philanthropy executive Bill Dietel and a group of concerned residents, he began examining ways to bring the vital news operation back to life and make it sustainable for the future.

The result of their efforts was a private, independent, nonprofit news organization called Foothills Forum, created specifically to provide in-depth, investigative reporting for Rappahannock News. A county of remarkable natural beauty, Rappahannock is a sought-after haven for many with ties to Washington, D.C. A large portion of the population consists of second homeowners and retirees. The ability to tap into this affluent echelon created a prime environment for Foothills Forum to thrive as a 501(c)(3).

However, in many rural areas, that’s not the case. Across the country, in California’s Mendocino County, home to approximately 90,000 people, the setting is quite different. “Our community didn’t seem like it was one where there were tons of extra philanthropy resources lying around,” said Kate Maxwell, publisher at The Mendocino Voice.

This reality, along with other factors, including the considerable administrative requirements of nonprofit status, sent The Mendocino Voice in a different direction. Since 2016, it has been growing as a fully digital, for-profit news organization. Now, it’s also moving toward becoming a co-op in which community members and staff can hold a stake.

Read the full article about rural news by Caroline Tremblay at Daily Yonder.