Fairbanks News-Miner lays off staff, seeks nonprofit status as path for survival - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, February 25, 2020
HomeThe 907Fairbanks News-Miner lays off staff, seeks nonprofit status as path for survival

Fairbanks News-Miner lays off staff, seeks nonprofit status as path for survival


The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has laid off four of its 55 employees, more than 7 percent of its entire staff.

The newspaper is owned by a nonprofit foundation but is operated as a business that supports itself with subscriptions and advertising. But times are tough in the newspaper industry.

Now, the Helen E. Snedden Foundation, which has owned the News-Miner since 2016, is gearing up to apply to the IRS for nonprofit status for the newspaper, so it can accept donations directly and apply for grants.

This month, the Juneau Empire laid off two people from its news staff — the staff photographer and the sports reporter. The news staff is down to four from a high of 20 or more in the 1990s. Last year, it stopped printing on Mondays and shuttered the Capital City Weekly, which it owns, because it was competing with the daily paper.

The Homer Tribune folded last year, leaving that community with one weekly newspaper.

But the News-Miner may survive under its new nonprofit model with the help of major grants.

“Community support could eventually come through an additional means. The company will be applying to the Internal Revenue Service this year to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation as a community asset, which could open the possibility of receiving grants and other types of financial support,” the News-Miner wrote to its readers.

According to the Pew Research Center, total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2018 was 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sunday, down 8 percent and 9 percent respectively, from 2017.

Weekday print circulation decreased 12 percent and Sunday print circulation decreased 13 percent in one year.

With that trend having continued and no relief in sight, last year the Salt Lake City Tribune became the largest newspaper yet to seek 501(c)(3) status, a request that was approved by the IRS in October.

The Tampa Bay Times has been owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute, and the Philadelphia Inquirer is owned by the Lenfest Institute. Like the News-Miner, they have remained for-profit entities owned by Foundations.

Nonprofit foundations are also driving the news narrative. A series on crime and lawlessness in Alaska is now in its second year at the Anchorage Daily News, with funding from ProPublica, which itself receives a large portion of its support from the Sandler Foundation. The Sandler Foundation supports numerous liberal political causes, including the Center for American Progress, which is pushing the impeachment narrative, and anti-Trump/anti-oil messaging. ProPublica does not fit the mold of a more neutral news organization, such as Associated Press or Reuters.

The role of foundations in influencing news coverage has some journalists skeptical of the strings that are attached. But their very jobs increasingly depend on the kindness of strangers: Journalism philanthropy has nearly quadrupled since 2009, according to Nieman Labs. The Institute for Nonprofit News reported that 43 percent of its members’ revenue now comes from foundations.

Donations Welcome


Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • The sad thing to me is that being beholden to left leaning foundations will decrease the objectivity of news coverage. As more leftist oriented propaganda takes over it will tend to further drive down circulation and decrease the relevance and impact if those newspapers that take this direction.

  • Two years ago, my dear “little sister” was working hard on getting her life back in order when something went horribly wrong. When those incidents happened, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner ran a story, quoting the Fairbanks Police Department, stating that she was not a suspect. Just days later, the same FDNM wrote another story, quoting the same FPD, stating that she was the only suspect. What does that mean? It means that one or the other story is fake news, period. It’s appalling the way that people in Fairbanks have made excuses with respect to the FDNM’s move toward publishing fake news and press releases and little else. Methinks people are simply in denial that this is the 21st century and that community institutions can’t stand up and shout “Hey, we’re community institutions and therefore you’re obligated to support us”. Any longtime Fairbanksan can go to either major library or online and look up any number of old newspapers and see the change for themselves.

  • The Cole dwarfs, with all of their Leftist minions, can’t muster up enough donations to keep this little propoganda rag viable?

    • My thoughts as well, after all they’re the two smartest people in AK.
      Just ask them…..
      Rest assured money will flow to keep it afloat!

    • I’ve started a subscription with “Epoch Times” as my news source, they have unbiased news that is reported so that we can form our own opinions just like the Papers of the past, in my opinion the way it should be! Check them out!


      • Thanks, Bill. Your best bet is to just stay with MRAK and Suzanne. She does what no one else in Alaska will do. And she does it faster. Case in point, she let us know that Mark Springer was terminated from the Marijuana Control Board a day or two before Springer knew. He was too busy lighting up a bowl and forgot to read MRAK.

  • Sean P.,

    You mentioned that the News-Miner quoted the Fairbanks Police Dept. in two stories and the police department’s quotes didn’t jive with one another. That isn’t the News-Miner reporting fake news — it is the police department not having its ducks in a row.

    The newspaper’s job is to report based on the information they have. It wasn’t the paper who failed your sister/family, it was the police department for giving them conflicting information. My guess is at first your sister wasn’t a suspect and then at some point of their investigation, she became a suspect.

    Either way, it wasn’t the paper that said she was/wasn’t a suspect — it was the police. The News-Miner reported what the police told them, which is their job.

  • Ronald Reagan……”Trust, but verify.”
    The Snewsminer trying to blame the cops? Copout! Unfortunately, the Snewsminer has gone another direction over the past 25 years. When you put the Cole dwarfs in charge of editorials and employ “climatards,” to run your local news, of course your paper will die. The public’s trust drains away. And it did!

  • The News-Miner is one of the worst newspapers out there. I wish it would just disappear completely.

  • Yet another daily paper about to fold forever. The numbers keep growing. Newspapers were almost the only source of news a few decades ago. Now they are antiquated and best used to line garbage pails. News is presented in many other easily accessible formats. What we read in the newspaper is old news. Sometimes like ,in ADN, two days old. And the content is so skimpy that generally you can read the whole paper faster than drinking a cup of coffee.
    And readership seems to be age related. How many people under 25 do you think read newspapers. Very very few according to polls. They get what news they want ( which is little indeed) through social media (generally inaccurate). Or from the TV. which like social Media is generally opinion or spin.
    Yep, the day of the newspaper is coming to an end.
    Want news? Go to sites like MRAK or One America News, or BBC. Want fake news go to CNN, MSNBC or FOX news. But don’t look for it on your driveway much longer. It’s going away.

  • Do we really believe what is being written by any news media these days? I bet not.

  • Another one trying to get tax money to live off the taxpayer. Either you give the reader what the want, or you fold. No tax money to any organization who have no disinterested complete audit of their books semi annually, stop the greed before it gets started.

  • One must ask oneself why are so many newspapers attempting so desperately to hold on? The very fact that they are in economic decline speaks volumes about their inability to sell their product. If they cannot sell subscriptions, cannot sell advertising and cannot sell announcements then isn’t that the definition of bankruptcy? Why should society otherwise provide an economic safety net to an enterprise that cannot sustain itself?

  • Lest we believe this is all a recent trend, consider my tour of the FDNM layout room over twenty years ago: a huge table littered with scissors and scraps of “news” from the wire services. Cut and paste news has been mainstream for decades. Seems these transitions in the news industry are longer lived and more painful than necessary. Finding a new equilibrium is always messy. Can’t help but wonder if print media more reflective of the interests of the audience – instead of becoming a bludgeon in the hands of counter-cultural types – might have fared better, finding a durable new place in the world more quickly.

  • “Nonprofit foundations are also driving the news narrative.”
    That’s why I wouldn’t spring for a sub to the FDNM nor the ADN. Propaganda can’t be avoided, it’s everywhere, but at least I’m not going to pay to read it.
    “The Epoch Times” mentioned by Bill Keller, is proving to be relatively unbiased, but it’s not without it’s own agenda. Their “sore point” is Communist China, whom is persecuting their fellow “Falun Gong Show” members.
    Their unbiased news is only per individual article. While they do give a balanced summary of every article, they’re selective in what news they cover extensively. They’re pro-anyone who is anti-China’s government.
    Still worth the sub cost though. I read Drudge Report, Jerusalem Post, The Epoch Times, KTUU, Mining News North, MRAK, and some few others for my daily dose of news. The more biased ones balance each other out quite well. All the mainstream ones have nothing coming from me. They’re all part of the problem.
    Of all the one’s I do read, MRAK has the best comment section, IMO … Suzanne doesn’t seem to rely only on some mindless algo to screen comments. She apparently does her own.
    Were I to win Nebraska Powerball (My oldest daughter sends me tickets all the time) I would seriously consider subsidizing MRAK … not to make it bigger, but to pay for more staff and resources, dedicated to returning the 4th estate to Alaska. Much in line with the movie “The Newsroom” with Jeff Daniels.

    • Here are the winning numbers, Joseph:
      23, 19, 14, 56, 72.

      MRAK awaits.

      • Were I to win the big one………..
        Besides a few charities I favor, and MRAK, I would want to start an “Uber-Church”, both brick and mortar, and web/broadcast/tv.
        I wouldn’t apply for non-profit status. That would merely make it another of the millions of churches beholden to the state.
        It would be any number of private homes in which the ministers could live. Each of which would have a large, heated, multi-purpose building on the property. This would be in step with the early Church’s practice of meeting in each other’s homes.
        Each would be subsidized well enough to pay the minister’s salary, and keep up the property. There would be no passing the plate or soliciting donations to support them. The congregation could practice any charitable activities they so choose, but it would be in step with the teaching “Gather your abundance into your store-rooms, and out of your abundance, remember the poor.”
        The Uber-Church wouldn’t be in the business of collecting monies, and deciding where to disburse it.
        There wouldn’t be any top-down management. Each Uber-Church would be independent from the others. The teachings and practices would be whatever the early believers held, for the first 200 years. The practice of serious sins would not be tolerated whatsoever. Repentance means stop doing them, not merely say your sorry. These would be the “guard-rails”, the only guidance from me.
        While I would be paying the bills, the Uber-Church’s would be “free-range”. They wouldn’t have to teach my personal belief-set. I think that would leave room for God to personally manage the big picture.

  • I read an article in ADN several weeks ago that struck me as having a strong left leaning bias. Then I went to a political comedy show and the comedian actually said progressives need to get in office first and them implement their ideas like taxing churches. This is the complete opposite of being for the people and make changes the people want. It’s a trick people! There is a basic concept I remember from school when we were taught about what our freedoms actually are and what that looks like in a free country, including our own thoughts…when you read an article you shouldn’t be able to discern the writers own views.

  • Let the NewsMinus die. RIP.

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