Hello, this is Benjamin Hardy, the editor of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network. ANNN is a nonprofit that turns your donations into journalism that matters to Arkansas.
If you’re able, please donate to ANNN today for #GivingNewsDay — and share this post! Until the end of the year, every dollar we receive will be matched by national and local donors as part of NewsMatch, an annual fundraiser for nonprofit news organizations.
There’s no shortage of important causes in Arkansas and no shortage of need. So why donate to a news organization?
I’ll give two reasons. The first is that local journalism really is in serious trouble. That may sound odd, considering the influence and reach of media today. But while some big national outlets are thriving (such as the New York Times or the cable news networks), local news is not. Smaller newspapers are laying off reporters, cutting back on coverage, and sometimes shutting down altogether. Meanwhile, big national outlets often don’t have the connections, capacity or interest to follow local stories.
ANNN is a tiny organization, with a part-time staff of one (me) and a few good freelancers. Still, I believe nonprofits like ours are part of the solution for local news. All of our stories are distributed for free to our partner publications, such as the Arkansas Times. Local newspapers get access to quality content and we get our reporting in front of more readers.
Second, no ANNN story would exist without donors — and we’ve published some important work in 2021.
Here’s one example. Earlier this year, the I-40 bridge linking Arkansas to Memphis was shut down for three months after a massive crack was discovered in a key structural member. The near-disaster dominated headlines for a week or two. Then, other media moved on. But ANNN partnered with The Daily Memphian (another nonprofit outlet) to dig deeper and ask questions about Arkansas’s bridge inspection program, which apparently had missed the crack for years.
The director of the state Department of Transportation blamed a single mid-level employee, bridge inspector Monty Frazier, claiming he had been the only person responsible for inspecting the cracked portion of the bridge for the past five years. Our investigation found otherwise. We interviewed Frazier. We reviewed bridge inspection reports. We sought documents under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. Among other things, we found the Department of Transportation’s own records showed other employees had in fact inspected that portion of the bridge in 2018 — a detail the agency finally admitted last month in a published report.
ANNN also did much more in 2021. We used federal crime data to show the Little Rock police chief made false claims about arrests of low-level marijuana offenders. We revealed an EMS mishap at the state’s largest hospital. We explored changes to Medicaid expansion, new laws benefiting immigrant job-seekers, and a recent corporate breakup that could affect thousands of Arkansans with developmental disabilities. We brought you stories from around the state, including a methamphetamine scandal in Arkadelphia, a fatal police shooting in Little Rock, a reckoning over race and history in Fayetteville and a manufacturer grappling with COVID in Dumas.
Arkansas needs this kind of in-depth journalism. But it’s not cheap or easy to do such work, and none of it would be possible without donors. Please consider helping ANNN today with a gift of any amount.
And to those of you who have already given to ANNN this year: Thank you so much for your support. We would not exist without your generosity, and we are grateful.