What is NowKalamazoo?
NowKalamazoo produces community news and civic information. This includes journalists telling stories about entrepreneurs and local businesses, examining issues in our schools, investigating the impacts of city or county government policy, and more.
NowKalamazoo is a non-partisan, locally operated nonprofit organization. NowKalamazoo’s mission is to improve the quality and availability of the information we all need to navigate life in this county.
NowKalamazoo distributes its journalism and community media via email newsletters, a website, social media, events and more.
Who owns NowKalamazoo?
As a nonprofit organization, well, no one owns NowKalamazoo — it belongs to all of us.
NowKalamazoo is operated by the Local Journalism Foundation Inc., tax ID #93-2232138, a Section 501(c)(3) public charity recognized by the Internal Revenue Service, and incorporated through the State of Michigan. The foundation’s purpose is to support local journalism and media, and civic journalism and engagement in Kalamazoo County and beyond.
How does NowKalamazoo make money?
Even though it’s a nonprofit organization, NowKalamazoo still needs to make money. Currently, NowKalamazoo earns revenue in the form of reader donations, corporate sponsorships, and grants from philanthropic organizations and foundations.
NowKalamazoo is operated by the Local Journalism Foundation Inc., tax ID #93-2232138, a Section 501(c)(3) public charity recognized by the Internal Revenue Service, and incorporated through the State of Michigan. The foundation’s purpose is to support local journalism and media, and civic journalism and engagement in Kalamazoo County and beyond. Donations to the Local Journalism Foundation and NowKalamazoo are tax-deductible to the extent of the law. No goods or services are provided in exchange for contributions. Please consult a tax advisor for details. NowKalamazoo will submit a Form 990 each year detailing our funding; these forms will be publicly available.
Is NowKalamazoo biased?
The practice and principles of journalism demand that reporters and publishers stick to verifiable facts. It also requires that we seek out diverse and balanced perspectives.
There is, however, a quote to keep in mind, generally attributed to Jonathan Foster, a lecturer at Sheffield University in the UK:
“If someone says it’s raining, and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out the f—g window and find out which is true.”
The trick is to aspire for balance, but avoid false equivalence in how stories are framed.
So, is NowKalamazoo biased? Well, yes.
It’s biased toward an ever-improving quality of life in this county, for all citizens.
It’s biased in favor of democracy and truth-telling.
It’s biased in valuing diversity and working to improve equity.
To ensure that NowKalamazoo’s reporting avoids negative outcomes from bias, we conduct annual audits of our journalism. These audits examine, for example, which neighborhoods stories focus on and for what type of news, or gauge whether sources cited in stories reflect a balance in gender and race.
It isn’t easy. As humans, we’re all subject to a variety of biases. Advertisers and sales people know this and try to use it to persuade us every day. So if something slips through in what you see from NowKalamazoo, don’t hesitate to point it out. You can reach us on this topic here.
How is NowKalamazoo different than … ?
There are a number of excellent journalists and media organizations in the Kalamazoo area. NowKalamazoo is different in a few important ways.
NowKalamazoo was locally founded, and is locally operated and controlled. No corporate ownership making decisions from some other state.
As part of The Local Journalism Foundation Inc., NowKalamazoo is a nonprofit, not part of a publicly traded corporation, not bound to act primarily based on the financial interests of shareholders.
NowKalamazoo covers issues and trends, not events. Our reporters don’t race to the scene of a fire, if the real issue is a pattern of fire safety. We don’t send “breaking news alerts” on a shooting, we spend a year analyzing what’s causing gun violence.
What is NowKalamazoo’s goal?
The short answer: a vibrant, inclusive local media that supports a vibrant, inclusive community.
The long answer:
We could talk about our goals, your goals, the goals of Kalamazoo as a city, or a county.
First, let’s note that we assume that achieving our biggest-picture goals will take care of many of the other goals.
If it’s good for the hive, it’s good for the bees.
How do we measure uncertainty, fear, hope, optimism?
How would we separate our positive impact from all the other forces pushing in the same direction?
We could measure ourselves by voter turnout. Or we could pin our hopes on Yelp reviews. Or we could grade ourselves on numbers of subscribers and dollars donated.
The goal could be avoiding what we don’t want to become. Not being a news desert. Not crumbling into anarchy or oligarchy. Not giving up the empowered feeling that comes with being well informed and wise.
Another way of looking at it: Our goal is for NowKalamazoo to survive the transition we’re all living through.
You might have noticed that this country, the world really, is in an epoch of multi-generational change. Institutions, cultural mindsets, the bedrock of almost everything we know is transforming, even disappearing, before our eyes.
Journalism will still be with us 100 years from now. We believe that firmly. But we also suspect that it’s going to look very different. Its output will be different, and how it works as a business won’t be the same, either.
To get from here to that future a century from now, it’s going to take lots of bridges. That’s what NowKalamazoo and The Local Journalism Foundation are. They’re a lifeboat, a time capsule, an egg.
Success, then, is enduring. It’s preserving the practice of communities telling their own stories and holding themselves accountable. The goal is to hold fast.
What is service journalism?
At its essence, “service journalism” is news-you-can-use journalism.
Journalism, in general, is the practice of gathering, verifying, organizing and communicating information. The output of journalism could be a written article, a photo series, a documentary video, or even an interactive game.
That doesn’t always mean that it has utility, that you (the reader, the viewer, the customer) can turn around and use this new knowledge or insight. With service journalism, however, that’s the whole point.
Another way of understanding this is thinking of journalism-as-a-service business models. In contrast to traditional newspapers — where the real business was selling advertising to subsidize the production of journalism — NowKalamazoo approaches it the other way around.
Service means meeting the vastly different needs of your customers. It means designing custom solutions to their challenges and listening to their desires. Traditional news and media companies, in trying to be taste-makers and trend-setters, have often played the role of gatekeeper, deciding for others what’s “newsworthy.” At NowKalamazoo, our service journalism approach means actively collaborating with the community to determine what makes the headlines.
What is solutions journalism?
You, or people you know, might actively avoid news.
“It’s always bad news,” the avoiders say. “It’s always doom and gloom.”
There’s some truth to this.
When a business is based on attracting as many eyeballs as possible, it incentivizes the production of sensational and emotion-inducing media. “If it bleeds, it leads,” is an industry expression that for too long was an accurate description of how the nightly TV news broadcast was structured.
Solutions journalism is a counter-reaction to this mindset, an alternative approach to developing news media.
In solutions journalism, the point is to look past the “bad news” and focus on what people are doing about it. Solutions journalism says, “Yes, here’s a problem, and also here are three different ways people are working to solve it.”
That can mean educating the public on all the options so that they might advocate for one remedy or the other. It can mean reporters following up to determine whether a chosen solution is actually having the impact everyone hoped it would. At a minimum, it means elevating the voices and stories of those working to better our community, not journalizing tragic events and finger-pointing at bad guys.
What is engagement journalism?
Imagine you’re a sports reporter and it’s time to cover the big game. You’ve got two options in front of you: Are you going to cover the big game by sitting in the press box with all the other reporters, the public relations staff of the teams, and maybe some of the corporate sponsors that have banners up around the stadium?
Or are you going to sit in the stands with the fans?
The latter, that’s engagement journalism.
Engagement journalism is the set of beliefs that centers the practice of journalism around the audience.
To understand engagement journalism, it can be helpful to know what it’s not. It is not editors deciding what’s an important story and then assigning reporters to go out and find that story. It is not being an ivory tower that the average citizen can’t get into or talk to anyone inside.
Engaged journalism is shrinking the gap between the newsroom and the audience by filling it with empathy and collaborative interaction. It’s about promoting participation in the journalism, from inception to production to publication. And it goes hand in hand with Solutions Journalism. [link to that FAQ question]
At the center of engagement journalism is the belief that the product is not the article, or the video — the real product is the relationship with people, with our neighbors. That’s the point, not the words or the pictures.
Does NowKalamazoo endorse political candidates?
As a nonprofit, NowKalamazoo is required to be nonpartisan. Nonprofits — including nonprofit journalism organizations — are prohibited from endorsing any particular politician, and they are prohibited from lobbying for or against legislation.
How does NowKalamazoo choose which stories to publish?
Let’s note up front: There will always be more stories to tell than there are journalists to report them. Even in a relatively small county like Kalamazoo.
That’s the primary reason we created NowKalamazoo — just to get more of these stories told.
This mismatch also forces us, and any news media group, to pick and choose, to make decisions about how we allocate our limited time and resources.
We have to ask
- How many people does this issue affect?
- Is another publisher already covering this? Are they doing it well?
- What will happen if no one reports this story?
- Does NowKalamazoo have a unique perspective or valuable expertise that would make our reporting more impactful?
- Does this story need to be reported now?
This is just a sampling of questions we ask when choosing which story to pursue. There’s an additional set we ask before we even get to that point, on the question of “what’s newsworthy?”
The expression many journalists learn in their training is Dog bites man, that’s not news to anybody. Man bites dog, now that’s a story.
We don’t like that formulation at all, honestly. It’s part of the mindset that has steered the news business toward sensationalism (read our thoughts on Solutions Journalism[link]).
We believe it’s more important to report on trends, to furnish context around incidents, to analyze, and to reveal. That’s more important than just covering “a thing that happened.” That’s why you won’t find us chasing fire engines, and you’re more likely to find us investigating suspicious patterns in fire safety.
We also have to balance “what everyone’s talking about” with “what no one knows yet but everyone needs to.” This is a tricky balance to strike, which is why it’s essential to also practice engagement journalism (see previous question on this topic).
How does NowKalamazoo decide whom to quote in news stories?
We probably all had that kid in class that was always the first to raise a hand when the teacher asked a question.
Historically speaking, too many journalists have fallen into the trap of always calling on that kid when they need a quote for a story, in a metaphorical sense.
The trap is that there are people whom reporters know will pick up the phone, will be willing to go “on the record.”
This is how you end up reading the same names again and again in news stories. And let’s be honest, they’re usually white and dudes.
We need to seek out expertise and authority to inform our reporting, so you will see those types of sources in NowKalamazoo’s journalism.
We also value lived experience and direct engagement. So instead of just quoting the elected official and assuming they’re tuned in to the sentiments of her constituents, we’ll track down those citizens, the ones who are actually living through the story.
We insist on representation. That means that the frequency with which we quote college students versus working grandmothers should match the relative proportion of those groups in Kalamazoo County’s population. The same is true of race and gender — the true make-up of our community should be reflected in the media we publish.
To make sure we uphold this value, we’ll be auditing our sources annually and publishing those results here on the website.
Does NowKalamazoo publish “fake news”?
“Pink slime,” partisan websites.
There is a lot of junk on the internet that is just plain not true. There’s even more that’s poorly framed, disingenuous, and mean-spirited.
If you think anything you find on NowKalamazoo’s website or in our email newsletters fits those descriptors above, feel free to contact us.
Our very mission is to be an island of reliability in the web’s tide of uncertainty.
NowKalamazoo’s standard goes beyond just being factual.
When a Republican says it’s raining outside, but a Democrat says it isn’t raining, publishing a story that reports both of these statements is factual.
The problem is that only one of those people can be correct. The premise of the story sets up a false equivalence between what opposing people believe to be true, instead of investigating the actual state of the world.
NowKalamazoo’s approach is instead to go outside, see what the weather is, and to report that. That’s being factful.
What is NowKalamazoo’s corrections policy?
NowKalamazoo takes accuracy seriously. We’d rather be right than first with a story. We make sure we’re well-sourced, and our sources are correct. We make sure at least two editors review every story.
And yet, we’re humans, and we make mistakes. And when that happens we correct our mistake as quick as possible. Then we tell our readers about it — in the story that requires a correction and in the daily newsletter.
If you see something that might be in need of a correction, please reach out and let us know about it: https://nowkalamazoo.org/contact-us/
Do people at NowKalamazoo get paid?
NowKalamazoo is powered mainly by volunteers, but some staff members and contributors are paid.
NowKalamazoo currently has one full-time employee, our managing editor. Other contributors, such as reporters and photographers, are paid contractors, meaning they’re paid as freelancers project-by-project.
As a nonprofit organization, the IRS will require that NowKalamazoo files forms annually that spell out who’s getting paid and how much. Those forms will be publicly available, and once NowKalamazoo begins submitting them, they’ll be published on this website as well.
Can I volunteer with NowKalamazoo?
NowKalamazoo has volunteer opportunities and we’re developing even more of them. Here are some ways you can volunteer right now:
- Join our Community Advisory Group
- Lend your professional knowledge as part of our Expert Source Directory
- Help us put on amazing live experiences as a NowKalamazoo Event Ambassador
Believe it or not, we’re also creating paid support positions:
- Document public meetings as a Civic Scribe
- Make it less intimidating for fellow citizens to attend public meetings as a Civic Docent
If you’re interested or just have questions about any of these roles, contact us.