Hello friends of InvestigateWest, my name is Allison Augustyn. I am a writer, nonprofit consultant, and former journalist, and am honored to assume the role of Executive Director of InvestigateWest, with founder Robert McClure still at the editorial helm in the role of Executive Editor. I have been excited to reach out to you, reader, but first wanted to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on InvestigateWest, and American newsrooms in general.
First, the bad news. Not surprisingly, COVID has changed the journalism landscape forever. You may have read that 36,000 workers at news companies in the U.S. were laid off or furloughed in May 2020. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the newspaper industry has lost more than 50% of its employees since 2001. Today, over 65 million Americans live in counties with only one local newspaper—or none at all.
While we consume what’s being offered, diversified voices disappear from the landscape. What happens to those people, those stories? How are we to be engaged democratic citizens when we don’t know the issues? How can we confront misinformation and hold people in power accountable?
The answer is that we support journalism now. We vote with what we read and where we spend our money, on subscriptions, bookmarked websites, nonprofit newsrooms. Here is the good news: InvestigateWest isn’t going anywhere. With support from our readers, partners, and funders, I’m happy to report that this organization is strong and nimble, in need of support like all newsrooms, but well managed and prepared for crisis. Our staff and board are committed and focused on the future. Our journalists continue to dig deep into stories that remain critical to the citizens of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and create tangible impact.*
And that brings us to you, reader. Now is an opportunity to become better citizens of this democracy. Read and support local journalism, InvestigateWest and otherwise. Donate when you can, pay for news that matters. Reach out to us, get involved, volunteer your skills. I am always available to you to talk about new ideas and ways to partner.
No one knows what lies ahead, but I believe we can shape the future together, and make it better for more people than it was before. Thank you for reading, always. My best to you, your family, and friends in these unprecedented times.
*More good news: The latest update to our “Driving While Indian” project was recently reprinted across the U.S. after the state Legislature appropriated $200,000 toward studying and reducing racial bias in the Washington State Patrol.