The Local wins Lenfest grant to fuel news sustainability and expansion

by Carla Robinson
Posted 11/15/23

The paper is among 17 local news organizations to receive such awards, which are designed to help support long-term sustainability.

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The Local wins Lenfest grant to fuel news sustainability and expansion


The Chestnut Hill Local has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism as part of its $2 million inaugural Philadelphia Local News Sustainability Initiative.

The paper is among 17 local news organizations to receive such awards, which are designed to help support long-term sustainability. The two-year grant program provides core operating support and capacity-building funding to nonprofit and for-profit local news organizations serving the Philadelphia region. 

“One thing I’m very clear about is that in order to fully meet the news and information needs of a large city like this one, there needs to be a news ecosystem that includes more than one voice,” Shawn Mooring, head of Philadelphia programs at the Lenfest Institute told The Local last week. “Strong legacy community newspapers like the Chestnut Hill Local are a key part of that infrastructure in that they are where people already go to get information.”

The Local’s two-year grant will help fund a new business growth officer, who will focus on developing new products and identifying new revenue streams as the paper expands into Mt. Airy and Germantown.

“We are grateful to Lenfest for its unwavering support of local journalism,” said The Local’s board chairman Joel Barras. “This grant greatly accelerates our efforts to expand our offerings in Mt. Airy and Germantown and reinforces our resolve that we are on the right strategic path. I have never been more optimistic or excited about the Local’s future.”

Laura Lucas, chair of the board of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, which owns the paper, agreed. 

“Being recognized as one of 17 news organizations worthy of this investment is an honor,” she said. “Local journalism is important, as it builds a community, and is worth fighting for.”

Representatives from Mt. Airy’s two main civic groups – West Mt. Airy Neighbors and East Mt. Airy Neighbors – echoed Lucas’ sentiment.

“Over the past few years, we've seen The Local rising to the challenge of being a small local paper in an increasingly fast-paced, digital world,” said Josephine Winter, executive director of West Mt. Airy Neighbors. “The paper has been a helpful partner in numerous community initiatives, she said, and “we deeply appreciate the key role it plays in helping us to reach more of our neighbors.”

Linda Bell, executive director of East Mt. Airy Neighbors, said she too appreciates the Mt. Airy edition. 

 “I’m hooked on it,” she said, referring to her weekly delivery of the Mt. Airy Local. “I find that it brings me back to center, and grounds me. We get so much stuff from TV, and the Internet, so having that paper come in and tell me what’s happening right here in our own community – I really look forward to it.”

In addition to the Local, Lenfest’s new grant recipients include news outlets that serve a wide range of specific communities throughout the city. According to Mooring, the grants are intended to help recipients create new revenue strategies, reach new audiences, and in the case of legacy news organizations, support their digital transformation.

“What we ask ourselves is – how do we make sure that we are helping to build organizations that can support these communities,” Mooring said. 

Grantees will also be invited to attend quarterly meetings to share ideas about how to innovate as they build different revenue models and expand audiences, Mooring said. The Lenfest Institute will use these meetings to share expertise with all their grantees and highlight lessons learned.

“That really grew out of our ‘Every Voice Every Vote’ coalition, where we built a group of more than 80 community and media organizations,” Mooring said. “What was special about that project was that the partnerships and collaborations that grew out of it were really organic. We created a space for people to share what they were working on, and folks just naturally looked at what they were trying to accomplish and built off the connections that they made.”

Eventually, Mooring said, those meetings may result in additional forms of support. 

“Our hope is that, in time, we’ll be able to offer a suite of services to some of our grantees so that we can help them along in their journey,” he added. 

Lenfest, the noncontrolling owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, supports sustainable solutions for the next era of local journalism. 

The Philadelphia Local News Sustainability Initiative is Lenfest’s latest investment in Philadelphia’s local news organizations. It funds established Philadelphia-area news organizations with approximate annual revenue between $500,000 and $5 million. 

The grantees were selected from a pool who responded to an open call for applications.  

“Our goal is to help build a more transparent, connected, and equitable Philadelphia by linking residents to their neighbors, to news organizations, and to information resources to help them flourish,” Mooring said.