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Happy New Year from The Rapidian

Community support essential to make 2020 a success

There’s a common theme resonating across the country: Local news coverage is vital for an informed and educated community.

And there’s a common worry: Local news is an endangered species.

An October 19, 2019 New York Times article chronicled the state of affairs in Ann Arbor, where the University of Michigan’s student newspaper—the Michigan Daily—has become the sole source of printed news about city government.

Here in Grand Rapids, The Rapidian was founded in 2009 as part of the Grand Rapids Community Media Center (GRCMC) to be a vibrant local source of news and opinion, rising just at the time traditional print news outlets were shrinking.

The Rapidian has always emphasized that members of our community could be the citizen journalists who keep us aware and engaged in what’s happening in neighborhoods, schools and local government. The model also provided training and encouragement to be reliable and effective communicators.

For over a decade, The Rapidian featured great original content by a wide variety of dedicated community members. 

However, the cost of running The Rapidian has far outpaced any income generation the GRCMC has been able to muster for the project, and that’s been the case since initial grant funding was exhausted for this news project.

In addition, GRCMC’s primary source of funding is now jeopardized from changes from the Federal Communications Commission that has targeted money that has previously been designated for providing community media platforms.

Program leaders for all of GRCMC’s platforms—WYCE, GRTV, the Wealthy Theatre and IT Services—have been working hard and showing great creativity in pivoting to new revenue producing activities so that local people can continue to build community through media.  

In the case of The Rapidian, we’ve had to reduce costs and look for new funding models to sustain local journalism. It was never a viable option to expect advertising revenue to cover operating expenses. 

The GRCMC board of directors has appointed a working group to take a deep, hard look on what it takes to sustain this community journalism project.  Working group participants are board members Jesse Holcomb, Sean Kenny, Margie Zylstra and Michael Van Denend, along with GRCMC executive director Linda Gellasch and GRCMC’s New Media Specialist George Wietor, who is currently managing The Rapidian.

The working group’s mandate is to understand the history, purpose and place of The Rapidian in the West Michigan community, and to determine if there are ways to keep the e-publication strategic and sustainable into the future. This endeavor may suggest changes in The Rapidian’s mission and look, or it may simply be an amplification of its current format. In any case, careful attention to audience and funding will be given. 

The group has been reviewing The Rapidian’s role in the community and what purpose it serves; past funding attempts, and what levels of success they did or did not bring; and what adaptations of The Rapidian could possibly be sustainable, yet within its mission.

Thus far, the group has been monitoring current postings on The Rapidian, seeking out potential funding and grant sources and functioning as a stand-in “editorial board” for The Rapidian, discussing specific community topics that are important to cover.

One example of a pertinent topic is the upcoming 2020 Census—making sure local residents know of the importance and mechanics of this major undertaking.

The group is eager to recruit more citizen journalists to write original material for The Rapidian. Increasing the percentage of locally written pieces (other than press releases for non-profits) will boost the attractiveness of The Rapidian for outside funding.

Some of that recruitment will be happening on local college and university campuses, where The Rapidian has had a presence in the past, but will occur in other sectors of the community as well.

You can be a part of this important endeavor. The Rapidian has always been about featuring local writers and the subjects important to community members. So, we need you to participate as citizen journalists and we need to know the issues you want to see covered in The Rapidian

We are grateful for ten years of community support for The Rapidian reporters, journalist mentors and volunteers. And we are deeply appreciative of those of you who’ve financially committed to The Rapidian.  

Community friends and neighbors: Become a citizen journalist. Become a supporter of local journalism.

Reach out to us at



Photo by Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.