CSJ Foundation created to help support local journalism and strengthen democratic values


A new foundation in Arizona is soliciting donations to help support and sustain local journalism, encourage civil discussion of matters of local importance and promote the importance of civics education.

The Community Service Journalism was created and launched in 2019 with the intention of providing a lending hand to small news outlets and community journalists throughout the nation.

At a time when news organizations everywhere are struggling, the CSJ Foundation hopes to step in and provide financial assistance to bolster their efforts to better serve the local community.

The nonprofit organization was incorporated in Arizona and has applied to the Internal Revenue Service for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status as a public charity.

According to Bret McKeand, president of the organization’s Board of Trustees, the primary goal is to solicit funds to address the current shortcomings and challenges faced by today’s newsrooms – challenges created by the failure of the traditional business model that relied on paid advertising to determine the extent a newsroom is able to adequately serve its constituents.

“The CSJ Foundation is a new, bold business model to help struggling news organizations and journalists survive in order to continue building strong communities,” said Mr. McKeand

“Good reporting costs money, and the CSJ Foundation is stepping in to provide support and assistance.”

More specifically, the objectives of the CSJ Foundation include:

  • To support, extend and sustain credible community journalism that is available to all residents, regardless of their economic status.
  • To provide credible coverage and civil discussion of specific topics of public interest that might otherwise not be sufficiently addressed.
  • To engage more citizens in civil discussions of public issues (including, when necessary, remedial coaching about how to discuss issues without resorting to personal attacks or distortion of facts).
  • To help foster a strong sense of community in particularly stressed and/or divided communities.
  • To support educational efforts that teach civics, promote journalism and civil discourse.
  • To promote public-service journalism as a philanthropic investment.

The CSJ foundation will accept grant requests from organizations and other charitable organizations for projects that meet the mission and objectives of the organization.

To inquire about a potential grant, organizations should submit a letter of inquiry explaining the project, its impact on the community and the type of assistance need. Email letters of inquiry to Mr. McKeand at bmckeand@newszap.com.

Mr. McKeand has spent his entire career in the newspaper industry and has seen firsthand the slow decline of newspapers throughout the nation – and more important, how the loss of a hometown newspaper directly impacts a local community.

He spent 36 years with Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA, a community newspaper group in Phoenix, Arizona. During his career he worked as a reporter, editor and publisher, retiring in 2018 as president of the company’s Arizona operations.

He is passionate about journalism and the role it plays in strengthening the local community.

“Nowhere is the loss of journalism felt more than in small communities,” noted Mr. McKeand.

“The local hometown newspaper was often the cornerstone of a thriving and successful community: A place where citizens could participate in democracy. A platform in which residents could rise above differences that divide us and instead, focus on the common bonds that unite us.

Mr. McKeand points to a column written by Frank Blethen, publisher of the Seattle Times, in which he decried the dangers of media consolidation and believes that “when local papers are diminished, voting goes down, the cost of government goes up, corruption increases and civic engagement decreases.”

Local journalism, Mr. Blethen pointed out, creates vibrant communities essential to our democracy.

In addition to the challenges created by declining advertising revenues, the industry is also struggling to retain credibility and trust. Attacks against a free press and its role in holding government officials accountable have severely impacted the public’s confidence and ability to determine professional journalism from deliberate misinformation and propaganda.

The CSJ Foundation, said Mr. McKeand, will remain nonpartisan and nonpolitical in its mission, operations and projects it supports.

Mr. McKeand believes it’s imperative that trust be restored in our public press. He cites Nelson Mandela no less, the person given credit to restoring democracy to South Africa, who once said “a critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of democracy.” 

Mr. McKeand will be joined on the Board of Trustees by four other individuals with varying backgrounds in journalism, education, financial planning and philanthropy.

For additional information on the Community Service Journalism, visit csjfoundation.org or email Bret McKeand at bmckeand@newszap.com.

CSJ Foundation Mission Statement

In support of our nation’s founding principles that a free press and an educated citizenry are vital ingredients to sustaining our democracy, the Community Service Journalism Foundation seeks to assists credible public-service journalism and engage citizens in civil discussions of public issues in an effort to foster a stronger sense of community and understanding of democratic values.