Community News Initiative

WSLR Community News Initiative

In response to the declining access to local news, WSLR is launching a Community News Initiative to expand the capacity of the organization to provide local news and information to the Sarasota-Manatee community. WSLR is seeking funding to enhance current news and public affairs programming which includes a ½ hour weekly local news program ‘Critical Times’, daily local news briefs, a website and associated social media, the quarterly Critical Times newspaper, and several local public affairs shows – including The Detail and the Peace and Justice Report.  The News Department currently operates with one part-time paid news producer, student interns, and volunteers.  WSLR has active internship programs with New College of Florida and the University of South Florida.  One goal is to hire a full-time News Director to oversee our news and public affairs programming and expand our ability to produce and distribute local content.  

The decline of local news is associated with higher polarization, decreased voter turnout, less cross-party voting, increased corruption and more government waste.  The decline of local reporting means residents are less well-informed about schools, government effectiveness, economic development, criminal justice, health care, the environment, crime, religion, issues facing small businesses and the basic elements of community life.  WSLR’s Community News Fund aims to support local journalism and ensure that community members have the information they need to make informed decisions about local issue and that residents are aware of resources they can access to support their businesses, their health and their overall wellbeing.

There are two ways you can support our local news expansion:  

  1.  Give through the ‘A Community Thrives’ platform 

From July 19th at noon ET through August 13th at noon ET WSLR will be participating in ‘A Community Thrives’, a grantmaking and crowdfunding program from the USA TODAY NETWORK, which includes USA TODAY and the Herald Tribune. All donations made through this platform will be targeted to help us expand our capacity to produce and distribute local news content.  The initiative is part of the Gannett Foundation and supports nonprofit organizations with projects focused on community building. Fundraising through this program, allows nonprofits to qualify for “bonus” incentive grants ranging from local operating grants in the amount of $2500 to national project grants of up to $100,000.  Similar to the Giving Partner Challenge run by the Community Foundation of Sarasota, this is an online giving fundraiser and donations must be made on the official A Community Thrives challenge page.   The minimum Eligible Donation is $5 per transaction. There is no maximum donation limit. Eligible Donations can be made using a credit card, PayPal, Apple Pay or Bank account and must be successfully processed through WSLR’s ‘A Community Thrives’ page which can be found here:

2.   WSLR has also launched a Community News Fund so that you can designate support for local news development year-round. You can make an ongoing monthly contribution or a one-time contribution through the WSLR website at

As our Community News Fund grows WSLR hopes to build a program of public service journalism modeled after the program developed by City Bureau, a Chicago-based civic journalism lab. In less than three years, City Bureau has gone from an audacious idea to a replicable model for more equitable, inclusive and representational community news coverage.   They work to bring journalists and communities together in a collaborative spirit to produce equitable media coverage and encourage civic participation. There are three elements to the program – a Civic Journalism Reporting Fellowship, the Documenters Program and a free Public Newsroom forum — which work together to broaden paths of entry into the journalism industry, increase transparency and accessibility at local public governance meetings and bring people into solutions-based dialogue. 


Current track