Starting a News Co-op 

There are two basic ways to start a community news co-op:  1) launching from scratch and      2) converting an existing for-profit or nonprofit news organization to co-op ownership.  Both are exercises in community organizing and require significant volunteer and leadership energy.  In hundreds of communities around the U.S. that are most in need — news deserts where all original news coverage has died — launching from scratch is the only option. 

Co-ops are businesses without equity investors, so organizers need to sign up a large number of founding members; their modest initial payments add up to provide the money needed to launch.  Organizers will need to raise some other money in their community as well.

However your news co-op starts, the organizing must never stop — the more energy coursing though the Banyan model the more members (and thus revenue) it will attract, ands the more the members are stirred to engagement, the more energy will be generated.  This is a virtuous circle, and keeping it energized is crucial management duty not common in the news business.

Co-ops take many forms, but all are governed democratically on a one-member/one-vote basis; typically, co-op members vote to elect directors, who then hire the management. The Banyan model is a consumer cooperative, whose governing members are end users. News co-ops are governed by the votes of reader/members; widely known types of consumer co-ops are food co-ops, which are governed by the votes of shopper-members, and credit unions, which are governed by the votes of their depositor-members. By law, co-ops are oriented toward service rather than investment return. The International Co-operative Alliance has established these seven Co-op Principles.

If you’d like to explore the approach to launching a news co-op, explore this page.  And if you’re interested in exploring ways to start a news co-op and affiliate with Banyan, or otherwise getting involved, contact us.  

 

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The Banyan Project is built on the thinking and experience of 32 senior journalists, academics, Web developers, sociologists and researchers, business and financial strategists, and advocates for strengthening democracy brought together by Tom Stites. Members of this Board of Advisors are listed below; click on names to see bios.

Stites shaped Banyan's model as a fellow of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

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