Banyan Project

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= " to help seed independent community news cooperatives, then support them with mentorship and educational and administrative tools".




"As the Internet blossoms newspapers are withering, and the reliable news coverage and information that communities need for their civic health are withering with them. New models for community journalism that can thrive in the digital future are an urgent need of our democracy, and the nonprofit Banyan Project is responding. Its mission is to help seed independent community news cooperatives, then support them with mentorship and educational and administrative tools.

The multifaceted model that Banyan advocates and supports is built on the sturdy foundation of consumer co-ops, with reader-members electing the boards of local news co-ops the way shoppers do in food co-ops and depositors do in credit unions. The news co-op model, as Banyan has developed it, is easily replicable from community to community, the way food co-ops and credit unions replicated from coast to coast.

Each independent news co-op’s voting members will be hundreds if not thousands of local readers. The co-ops will be led professionally and governed democratically through one-member/one-vote election of directors, as are co-ops of all kinds. Their revenue structure is designed to make them thrive even as newspapers fade. And their journalism will be free for all to read so they can serve the broad public of the less-than-affluent everyday citizens we call the Banyan public, not just the upscale people newspapers tend to cultivate. The need for news co-ops is greatest in underserved communities.

Banyan educational materials will include a comprehensive guide for creating a news co-op, templates for business planning, and plans for enrolling founding members, all supported by Banyan staff guidance. Ongoing staff support will include problem solving and online forums.

Banyan will also provide affiliated sites with software tailored for community news co-ops. Banyan’s staff will help sites make the most of distinctive software features designed to amplify their journalism’s impact."


"The Banyan Project aims to strengthen democracy by helping seed community-scale Web journalism cooperatives in underserved communities, then supporting them so they can thrive and best serve the broad public of everyday citizens and engage their civic energy.

Banyan will provide mentorship and educational and administrative tools that will help new co-ops get started with a minimum of risk. Licenses to use Banyan’s publishing software, which is designed to fit the distinctive needs of news co-ops, will be granted only to sites that agree to uphold the Banyan value proposition—to provide journalism that will be relevant to readers’ lives, respectful of them as people, and worthy of their trust—and to meet standards that Banyan sets. The germination of the model that Banyan advocates and supports is taking shape in Haverhill, Mass., where a pilot co-op is being formed.

Banyan’s seed was planted a decade ago in conversations among founder Tom Stites and friends who share a concern about the future of journalism. The conversation widened as a result of Stites’s keynote address at the 2006 Media Giraffe conference on journalism’s future, which drew more than 200 news executives, academics, researchers and bloggers. His speech, Is Media Performance Democracy’s Critical Issue?, drew more than 30,000 page views on the Web. Two years later Stites pulled together the first members of Banyan’s advisory board and set up a wiki so people could see the concept as it unfolded. The concept won a Game Changer award at the 2010 We Media conference, and Stites was named a 2010-11 fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, where he shaped the Banyan model and gained expert counsel from the community of fellows and from law and business professors. In 2012 a committee of community leaders in Haverhill came together to form and launch the pilot Banyan-model co-op.

The Banyan Board of Advisors has grown to include 29 senior journalists, academics, Web developers, sociologists and researchers, business and financial strategists, and advocates for strengthening democracy. Joining founder Stites as directors of Banyan Project Inc. are six advisory board members: Angus Durocher, Arthur Henshaw, Paul Kritzer, Dan Gillmor, Newell Lessell and Lauren Walters." (

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