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Abbi Whitaker: Increased coverage in Northern NV is good for business (Voices)

Abbi Whitaker

Special to the NNBW

Abbi Whitaker
Courtesy photo

A few days ago, a major national news outlet published a fascinating feature about a Nevada company developing personal jets that will fly at supersonic speeds.

Where can we find this company? Reno? Las Vegas? Maybe even Pioche?

For the writer of that article, a fellow in New York City, it didn’t simply make any difference. The company was from Nevada. Who would possibly need to know more?

But a new breed of news organizations, such as The Nevada Independent — which is increasing its investment in coverage of Northern Nevada — recognizes that sharply focused local news means a lot to those of us who live in Nevada

All of us care most about where we live, what’s happening in our own neighborhood, how daily life in our communities is shaped by the decisions of our own local governments. But it’s a challenge to find a business model that effectively delivers local journalism in a new environment. 

Some local newspapers have closed. Surviving publications have cut their staffs and cover less news. Local news broadcasts face similar challenges.

To be square, the media brought some of this upon itself. Owners of broadcast properties and newspapers —often, big corporations that didn’t care much about local communities — didn’t reinvest to keep themselves competitive with new technologies.

But the market changed, too. Advertising sales collapsed as the Internet grew. The old business model for local journalism doesn’t work any longer.

Too often, coverage of our communities these days involves a big-name national reporter who drops in for a couple of days, flies back home and writes an article. No matter how big the name, these reporters simply can’t provide the same insight as reporters who live in our communities, know the strengths and foibles of local political figures and care about communities as deeply as their neighbors do.

So here’s the challenge: How will we deliver local journalism in this new environment?

Since 2017, The Nevada Independent has been providing nonpartisan coverage of politics, the economy, education, criminal justice, energy, health care, immigration and the environment in Nevada. As a nonprofit, The Independent covers the news without fear or favor. Its opinion columnists provide sharp, clear-eyed insight.

The financial survival of the organization never has been easy. It earns the support of donors large and small. It hosts conferences and major events, such as “The Caucus Is Coming,” its who’s-who celebration at the Museum of Art in Reno on Feb. 20. And the publication even makes a little money selling T-shirts.

After three years, The Nevada Independent is able to make substantial reinvestment into our local journalism. Its leadership has chosen to further increase its coverage of Northern Nevada — providing local news and analysis that’s both wider and deeper.

The Nevada Independent is confident that it will continue to earn the support of the Northern Nevada community as it takes this major step.

Oh, and that Nevada company that the national media profiled? It’s Aerion Inc. They’re in Reno, they’re pretty cool and they’re our neighbors.

Abbi Whitaker is president and co-founder of The Abbi Agency in Reno.