Columbia Missourian wins $20,000 to supercharge community engagement

Columbia Missourian among top three finalists for two LION Local Journalism Awards

The grant is the maximum possible award from the LION Sustainability Audits and Funding Program

The Columbia Missourian has earned a $20,000 sustainability award from Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. It’s not the first award from LION for the Missouri News Network’s community newspaper, which won a LION Local Journalism Award in 2022, but this recognition comes in the form of a grant, acknowledging and supporting the Missourian’s efforts to create meaningful connections with the local community.

“Impactful community news is at the foundation of what the School of Journalism does, keeping mid-Missouri informed by putting students on the ground to do local reporting,” said David Kurpius, dean of the School. “This award demonstrates how seriously the Missourian takes community engagement and creates the potential for even greater strides.”

Awarded as part of the LION Sustainability Audits and Funding Program, the grant will go toward outreach efforts the Missourian is undertaking to foster stronger dialogue with the people of mid-Missouri, especially those who are not already devoted members of the newspaper’s readership.

“Over the last six or seven years, the Missourian has really become the newspaper for Columbia, and we need to step into that fully by finding ways to be more deeply engaged with the community,” said Elizabeth Stephens, executive editor of the Missourian. “This grant has given us a lot more flexibility to move forward on ideas that we wanted to pursue.”

Stephens said the grant will support three specific efforts:

  • Community events — The Missourian recently held two public meetups at a local coffee shop in March and April, where people had the opportunity to talk with reporters and editors about the issues that are most important to them. Stephens said they plan to hold more while also looking into other types of events that would connect the newsroom with the public.
  • Growing newsletter audiences — Columbia Parents’ Digest, a newsletter that provides parents with information about education, kid-friendly events and opportunities for community involvement, began as an infrequent newsletter that now lands in email boxes twice a month. Funds are going toward increasing subscribers to this and other newsletters through marketing efforts.
  • Community advisory board — Stephens emphasized that to preserve the mutually beneficial nature of connecting with the community, “we want constructive criticism, not an echo chamber.” A community advisory board would give voices to those who aren’t necessarily current Missourian readers but are active in the community and are aware of current issues.

As the “newspaper for Columbia,” the Missourian has an additional challenge baked into its nature as a real-world lab for the Missouri Method, in which students learn by doing real community reporting. In continually welcoming new students as graduates embark on their careers, a key part of the Missourian’s success is building lasting community relationships with faculty and staff that persist despite the student turnover.

“This is also about making sure people know there is a consistent staff that lives in the community and is invested here that they can reach out to,” Stephens said. “We want to give people the chance to be open with us, share some constructive criticism and really just connect with us.”

Updated: May 22, 2024

Related Stories

Expand All Collapse All