Reader support for nonprofit news raises $1 million over three days

The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest public health story of our time, but the ramifications of the pandemic go far beyond our physical health to affect the environment, education and human rights as well as our relationships with family, friends and neighbors.

Members of the INN network have used their topical expertise and their community connections to engage audiences in thinking about the broader impacts of the spread of COVID-19. We think that having an eye on the bigger societal picture helps explain why 106 INN members raised more than $1.1 million during a three-day fundraising campaign launched with #GivingTuesdayNow last week.

“The community reaction to our reporting on COVID-19 but also on all the life we have outside of the virus has been a lesson for us,” said Leslie David of Benito Link, which raised an unexpected two percent of its annual operating budget over three days last week.

Here’s a sampling of articles from the past two months that illustrate how INN members have covered a variety of aspects of our shared crisis — and why readers find these news sources so valuable.

  • Local news sources Benito Link and East Lansing Info talked to residents to help build a sense of community, even as people were shut inside their homes. Benito Link ran a Q&A with five parents about how they kept their kids engaged at home while East Lansing Info asked a graduate of their Summer Youth Journalism Program to talk to his classmates about their state of mind — thereby debunking the myth that the teenagers were happy to be out of school and revealing their anxieties and concerns.
  • The environmental news outlet Ensia commissioned a story about the connection between biodiversity loss, the wildlife trade, and the spread of infectious disease in humans that was co-published with The Guardian, re-published by Scientific American, and earned nearly two million page views in just two weeks. The story prompted responses from the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; the United Nations Development Programme; Conservation International and others concerned that this outbreak is just the “tip of the iceberg.”
  • The immigration team at Reveal set up video chats with asylum seekers at ICE detention centers in Louisiana, where they discovered that detainees were not able to follow the social distancing protocols or hygienic measures established by the state: Their sources slept in rooms where 14 men shared two toilets, sinks and showers and went without access to hand sanitizer, gloves or masks. After the sources’ video chat account was “suspended,” Reveal’s lawyer submitted a letter to officials arguing that cutting off the men’s access to communication was a possible violation of the First Amendment.
  • The Hechinger Report, which covers innovation and inequality in education, doubled its output to keep pace with the rapid changes in American education as schools closed and parents began homeschooling. Recent coverage has highlighted issues of hunger, mental health and what may be the biggest “gap year” ever for American students.
  • Since the first cases of the novel coronavirus was reported in California in March, CalMatters has been providing breaking-news COVID-19 coverage of this national health crisis, publishing stories around the clock and interacting directly with readers concerning the risks of infection and responses to the pandemic on the parts of federal, state and local government agencies. Beyond health issues, CalMatters has delved into the myriad impacts the outbreak is having on the state’s most vulnerable citizens, paying special attention to hunger, housing, and job losses across different demographics.

INN is grateful to our partners who helped develop and run the #GivingTuesdayNow campaign that raised over $1 million to support our member newsrooms: NewsMatch, News Revenue Hub, American Journalism Project, Democracy Fund and Knight Foundation.