Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Nonprofit Newsletters: Where the Good News Is Hiding

Blogs this week are buzzing about the demise of print journalism, with the closing or pending closing of some major newspapers. I am surprised that the newspaper’s death is suddenly news, as it was a common topic when I was in journalism school more than a decade ago. It’s sort of like finding an obituary for Tupac Shakur on my news feed.

I have never worked on a daily newspaper, other than a month-long stint as a stringer, which ended when I calculated my hourly wage from my per-article rate. However, I did earn a degree in journalism, with my eye toward magazine writing, and I love the written word. I much prefer reading an in-depth news article to watching snippets of information in a 30-second news story. The history of print journalism also interests me, particularly the days of William Randolph Hearst, one of the most fascinating men in American history. (For more on Hearst, check out the bios shown below.)

Despite my affection for newspapers, I have to admit that I have contributed to their death. I subscribe to our local paper, but only for the coupons and the Sunday crossword puzzle. I occasionally read the news, but I more often avoid it because I get overwhelmed by it all. When something truly newsworthy happens, I hear about it from someone else and look up the details online.

I am not proud of my ignorance of world events; I simply know myself well enough to know that I can do little to change them, and too much bad news can depress me enough that I fail to act locally to change the things I can. Thankfully, to make up for my limited consumption of mainstream news, I have found an undervalued news source: nonprofit newsletters.*

True, nonprofit newsletters are not considered news by those who know the news – they are too narrow, too biased, too eager to raise funds – but one thing they do well is report good news. The nonprofit newsletters I receive, even the poorly produced ones, contain stories of hope and change. They make me feel like I can make a difference in the world; they tell me about real people who do.

While the mainstream news reports on a housing crisis, Habitat for Humanity tells me about people who are helping to build their own affordable homes. When the newspapers report on natural disasters, Samaritan’s Purse tells me about relief efforts. When the nightly newscast features the war on drugs, New Life for Girls shows me a woman who is winning her battle with addiction.

Yes, I am sad that newspapers are dying, but thanks to the nonprofits who send me mail, I am reminded that there is hope in the world.

* Disclaimer: I currently edit and write for a nonprofit newsletter (not one listed above); it is not the first one I have worked on. However, I believe my bias toward nonprofits and their newsletters is not a result of my work; rather, I am attracted to the work because of my love for nonprofits.

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