Launched in June 2019 after a successful public forum on the crisis in journalism in Somerville the previous February, the Somerville News Garden was a grassroots effort to attempt to stop Somerville, MA, USA from turning into what media academics are calling a “news desert”—a municipality that no longer has professionally-produced news outlets. The initiative was sponsored by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism in partnership with the Somerville Media Center and concluded operations in June 2023 after successfully spinning-off two of its four projects into a new independent organization, thus demonstrating the effectiveness of the model BINJ developed for helping municipalities to revive failing local news infrastructures.
SNG had four projects:
The Neighborhood Media School that trained Somerville-area residents in the fundamentals of reporting, news analysis, and multimedia production (e.g., photography, video, data visualization) was suspended after a trial run in summer 2020 due to logistical difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic and was never restarted.
In January 2022, SNG spun off the Somerville Media Fund—an independent IRS 501(c)(3) foundation that helps provide professionally produced journalism covering important issues of the day in Somerville, Massachusetts in the public interest and also seeks to educate Somerville residents about the importance of journalism and media literacy to our democracy on an ongoing basis;
In February 2023, SNG spun off the Somerville Wire, a news service run by professional journalists with contributions from area residents that covers Somerville and syndicates its articles to interested independent news outlets and the public at large, as a project of the Somerville Media Fund.
In June 2023, BINJ shut down its Research Group that had conducted surveys, interviews, and focus groups with Somervillians to learn about their news habits and preferences and tailored the News Garden to meet these needs upon the acceptance for publication of a academic journal article jointly authored by Prof. Gino Canella of Emerson College and BINJ Executive Director Jason Pramas based on the group’s findings. The article is forthcoming.
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