Philanthropy is becoming part of the business model at many American newspapers, but not so much among rural weeklies and dailies. Rural philanthropy has always been something of an oxymoron, with most of the big money staying in big places. The National Summit on Journalism in Rural America explored how philanthropy can help rural news outlets.

Editors and publishers at chain-owned rural papers may think that their ownership model precludes asking for philanthropic help from individuals and institutions, but one of the better examples of philanthropy helping a non-metropolitan paper is at the Traverse City Record-Eagle in Michigan, a daily owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.

Nathan Payne, who recently moved from the editorship of the Record-Eagle to be the rural team editor for Kaiser Health News, discussed at the Summit how he raised support through the local community foundation, a type of philanthropy that is becoming more common in rural areas.

When Payne needed matching money to get a reporter from Report for America two years ago, he got more and different help than he expected from the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation. He said people in Traverse City see the value of "20 professional skeptics all over the community, turning over rocks" but they didn't really know the state of local journalism. He said involving the community foundation added a trust factor to a chain paper asking for money.

The philanthropy has put $10,000 into a community news fund that helps the Record-Eagle, but that hasn’t meant as much as the help it has given the paper with fund-raising. Payne and Publisher Paul Heidbreder got guidance and support from a retired journalist in the community who was interested in the paper’s future, and their meetings with the foundation's executive director helped Payne frame his case for financial support from others. Last year, he ran a crowdfunding campaign that raised about $8,500 and an end-of-year email campaign that produced $5,550. This year, the paper has $15,000 from foundations, and it has expanded its coverage area to include more rural counties, a rarity today.

Read the full article about supporting rural journalism by Al Cross at The Rural Blog.