This year the Nogales International marked its 95th anniversary, and we celebrate that this publication has carried on the mission of its founder, Craig Pottinger, to inform and serve the community through good times as well as challenging and turbulent times.

The continued decline in the newspaper industry has been turbo-charged by the pandemic. The NI has been seriously affected, but is not recoiling. It has forced us to look into new avenues of financial sustainability, while maintaining independence, objectivity and balance in our reporting.

The outside world has taken note. The NI annually reaps multiple awards for our work, but 2020 was a little different and helps make our anniversary even more special. One of our reporters, Genesis Lara was recognized as Community Journalist of the Year by both the Arizona Press Club and the Arizona Newspapers Association. That’s a first. Her colleague, Nick Phillips took second place for the APC’s top prize and won three first-place awards in the individual categories of the ANA contest. They say students are only as good as their teacher and managing editor Jonathan Clark deserves much credit for helping them hone their craft.

Further validation of our good work this year was being among a very select few news organizations chosen to participate in not one, but two prestigious national endeavors to make journalism sustainable through philanthropic funding.

The first is Report for America, which pairs journalists and local newsrooms to report on under-covered communities. It’s an initiative of the nonprofit media organization The GroundTruth Project, and our application requested a reporter to help us cover eastern Santa Cruz County, including Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin. These are important communities within our coverage area that lost out on some regular news reporting when we were forced in 2016 to suspend our Sonoita-based newspaper, The Weekly Bulletin. Financing for the position – set to begin in June – is to come in part from RFA, but also from the Nogales International through its own fundraising efforts.

The second opportunity came from the Local Media Association in partnership with the Seattle Times. LMA was formed for the purpose of sharing, networking and promoting collaboration among its membership via cutting-edge programs, conferences, webinars, research and training. The Seattle Times, meanwhile, is a pioneer in collaborating with community funders and other personal champions of the free press to ensure the future of local investigative journalism.

The hard part of the LMA collaboration is ahead of us. We need to secure philanthropic partners and others to help fund one or two graduate students to shed light on border culture, art and unique socio-economic challenges. One example of the type of coverage we envision is reporting on immigrants living in our communities who, because of language barriers, unfamiliarity with the law and government process, tend to be invisible and apolitical. As such, policies are set and laws made at the local level that affect them directly, yet they are too intimidated to speak up, much less speak out. Most times, they aren’t even invited to the table. Focusing on some of these neighbors will reveal fascinating stories, talent, skills that could one day be tapped to form a better, more inclusive vision for our community.

Finding supporters of the First Amendment and community journalism is not a cakewalk. But I’ve already learned one thing: the more partners pushing this grand piano up the stairs, the easier it will be for the Nogales International to survive another 95 years. Please consider contributing to this worthy mission. Call me at (520) 619-0224 or email publisher@nogalesinternational.com for more information.

(Coppola is publisher of the Nogales International.)

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