A note from the publisher: An awards announcement shows the fragility of the newspaper world

On May 17, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) announced the finalists in the 2024 AAN Awards, recognizing the best work done in 2023. 

The results show the amazing journalism being done by publications like the Reno News & Review all across the country—and I’m proud to announce the RN&R is a finalist in three categories: 

• Explanatory journalism, for “Museums and federal agencies stockpiled the remains of Indigenous people as their descendants protested. That’s slowly changing,” by Lucy Birmingham and Frank X. Mullen. 

• Music writing, for Matt Bieker’s coverage. 

• Print special section, for the Best of Northern Nevada 2023.  

Additionally, RN&R contributor Matt King is also a finalist in the music writing category, for his work in our sister publication, the Coachella Valley Independent—setting up an in-family battle of the Matts, of sorts. We’ll see who takes the top spot when the winners and other placements are announced in July. 

While the AAN Awards finalists list shows off a lot of amazing journalism, a deeper look offers a warning about what is being lost in these troubled times for newspapers. 

The Riverfront Times, the weekly newspaper that served St. Louis since 1977, is a finalist in two categories: feature story and cover design. Five days after the awards announcement, the newspaper was sold to an as-yet-undisclosed new owner—and the entire staff was laid off. Staff writer Kallie Cox wrote on X/Twitter: The Riverfront Times “is officially dead. … I can say this is the best paper I’ve ever had the pleasure of working at.” 

Oregon’s Eugene Weekly is a finalist in three categories: explanatory journalism, health care reporting and solutions journalism. All of this work was done before the newspaper shut down suddenly last December, when shocked employees discovered the bookkeeper had allegedly embezzled more than $100,000 from the company, and left more than $200,000 in bills unpaid. Fortunately, the newspaper returned a couple of months later, thanks to nationwide attention and a successful crowdsourcing campaign.  

Other finalists are publishing only after reinventing themselves as nonprofit news organizations. The Mississippi Free Press, a finalist in four categories, is a nonprofit born out of the closure of the for-profit Jackson Free Press. Isthmus, in Madison, Wis., is a finalist in four categories. The newspaper, which launched in 1976, closed in March 2020 when the pandemic hit, re-emerging more than a year later as a nonprofit; it’s now published online with a monthly print edition. (Sound familiar?) 

Here in Reno, we’re continuing our efforts to follow in the footsteps of the Mississippi Free Press and Isthmus by becoming a nonprofit news organization. On May 13, we held our second in a series of community meetings, where Kris Vagner and I answered questions about the status of the RN&R and our plans for the future. We also gathered information from readers interested in serving on either our board of directors or our community advisory committee. We’ll likely have one more community meeting this summer, with the goal of forming our board and our advisory committee—and starting the paperwork—in the fall.  

Meanwhile, this June issue—our annual Summer Guide—kicks off our third year back in print as a monthly after our pandemic hiatus. You, dear reader, can rest assured that we’re taking steps to make sure that the RN&R does not go the way of the Riverfront Times, and that there are many more years of excellent, award-winning journalism to come—but we’re going to need your help to make that happen.