A few years ago, my work required me to visit the other Washington (DC) for meetings and conferences at least once a year.
Every time I went, I tried to visit the Newseum, the museum dedicated to news and journalism. It promoted free expression and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution while tracing the evolution of communication.
The Newseum hosted traveling exhibits but among its permanent collection included a large part of the Berlin Wall, the iconic antennae from the World Trade Center, and a memorial to all the journalists who died doing their job.
No matter how rushed my visit was, I always made a point of visiting that memorial and noting the additions for that year. You may rightly expect that many of those journalists died while covering war-torn areas or what we would consider third-world countries with despotic leaders; however, it always surprised me to see that some of those journalists died covering news here in the United States.
While no journalists in this area are known to have been murdered in the line of duty, in 2021, a violent protester was convicted of "threatening two journalists while armed with an assault weapon" on the Capitol Campus, The Olympian reported.
Sadly, the Newseum closed on December 31, 2019.
I am reflecting on this today as it is #World Press Freedom Day.
The History of #World Press Freedom Day
In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly (UN) declared May 3 World Press Freedom Day or World Press Day, to spotlight media freedom around the world as freedom of expression is a fundamental right, and the press plays a key role in informing the public about the happenings in their country and around the world.
According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), the day aims to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom around the world, defend the media against the attacks on its independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives while performing their jobs.
The theme for this year is 'Journalism under Digital Siege', focusing on the digital era’s impact on freedom of expression, the safety of journalists, and access to information.
The media has changed a lot since I went to “J” School. Like many of you, I get angry at the way some would-be journalists hone their craft and have been known to take ‘breaks” from watching the news (particularly today). However, this weekend, I happened to watch several shows depicting life at other times in our nation’s history and it reminded me that the anger and the division we are seeing now are nothing new.
Not every journalist in the past or present followed the creed of being objective and unbiased, but many do, and we should celebrate, honor, and protect them.
It is not news to say that the media has had to evolve to meet the need for instant information as well as stay financially solvent. In recent years, you may have started to hear about media that is nonprofit, but this is not new. The Center for Investigative Reporting, founded in 1977, is generally recognized as the nation's oldest nonprofit investigative news organization. Of course, anyone who has watched NPR or Sesame Street is aware that the PBS (Public Broadcasting System) is a nonprofit. But did you know there are nonprofit media sources here in Thurston County?
Thurston County’s Nonprofit Media
Thurston Community is a nonprofit media organization providing training, production and distribution of digital media. Channels 3, 22, 26 and 77 carry their public-access television programming. Thurston County and the cities of Olympia, Lacey, and Tumwater contract with them to manage the facilities and channels made available through local cable franchises.
TVW, "Washington's public affairs network," went on the air in 1995 offering unedited coverage of Washington’s state government, politics, and public policy.
Of course I would be remiss (as well as potentially reprimanded) if I did not mention our own Journal of Olympia, Lacey & Tumwater, established in May 2020.
“Each week we produce original local news stories to fulfill our mission of growing community capacity to help people become better informed and more involved in local issues, events, and activities,” according to Danny Stusser, our publisher and executive director.
He added, “to quote my favorite media analyst, Mark Stenberg, The JOLT is in the "democracy-sustaining, corruption-derailing, community-building" business.”
What Can You Do?
There are some 350 nonprofit news organizations around the country; of these, about 120 are focused on hyper-local issues, like The JOLT. Others you might know include Crosscut.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Salt Lake Tribune.
(The rest are either nationally focused or cover a specific beat, such as health care or a religious or ethnic group.) As a volunteer columnist for The JOLT, I think Thurston County is lucky to have another media voice. I hope you will consider honoring World Press Freedom Day by telling your friends about The JOLT and urging them to support it (by donating!).
Want to Learn More?
If you want to continue learning about the rise in nonprofit journalism, here are a few excellent articles on the subject:
Hosting a Camp?
Is your nonprofit hosting a summer camp? Let me know so that I may feature it in a future column!
Soliciting your ideas
If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers, or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits!
Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at MaryBeth@theJOLTnews.com
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