Fifteen months ago, Eden Prairie Local News (EPLN) sprouted from the ashes of a COVID-19 infected world to begin providing hyperlocal news to this community of more than 65,000 people.
The city had been without a local newspaper for nearly a year and a half, after the venerable Eden Prairie News was purchased by a New York-based hedge fund and unceremoniously shuttered after 50 years of publication.
They are not alone. More than 100 newspapers have closed during COVID, according to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Another 100 more are in danger of shutting down in 2022.
Fifty local news organizations sprouted up during the pandemic – many of them digital nonprofits just like EPLN.
As a former journalist, now retired, and long-time Eden Prairie resident, I was excited to participate in an adventure that I felt strongly about – providing a trustworthy hyperlocal local news source for my neighbors and fellow residents in the place I live.
I was honored to be one of a handful of volunteers with journalism experience in their past lives to step forward to cover City Hall, the school board, high school and community sports, and all of the other important activities that happen in cities and towns across the country.
We did so because we believed that Eden Prairie deserved a local newspaper to tell its story.
Since September of 2020, 634 (this is the 635th) stories have been published – mostly by unpaid volunteers.
A dedicated group of civic leaders, business professionals and clergy – among others – gathered together with a vision: to bring an independent, non-partisan, trustworthy, hyperlocal news organization back to Eden Prairie.
With their dedication and energy driving them, they recruited a staff of volunteers comprised of journalists, board members, a technology expert, a finance professional and others.
And you have responded.
EPLN has gone from an average of just a couple of hundred page views per month in the fall of 2020 to averaging more than 40,000 a month today.
We told you the story of a young woman who started her own garden to provide food to people who need it more than she does and a story about high school students who visit elementary schools to teach young students new skills.
We told you the story of family and friends remembering a young Eden Prairie woman who was a victim of domestic violence and a story about the tragic death of a husband and father while doing what he loved – preparing himself to compete in a running race.
We continue to tell you the story of the Southwest Light Rail Transit construction project, one that will bring both new opportunities and challenges to Eden Prairie in the next few years.
We also published two print editions during our first full year, the most recent one full of stories about Eden Prairie High School and community athletes.
And who will ever forget our jumping worm story?
These – and many more – are what we call the Story of Us.
Most of the people who produce EPLN continue to work as volunteers. But we know that a long-term volunteer workforce is unsustainable. Thanks to generous contributors like you we are now able to pay small stipends as we work to bring new talent to the table.
To that end, we thank all of you who have donated money to help sustain and grow EPLN.
With your help, EPLN has earned a matching grant from the Institute for Nonprofit News and is eligible to receive a grant from the Google News Initiative by attracting 100 new donors before Jan. 1, 2022.
If you are interested in making a donation of any amount to support EPLN, go here.
We also continue to search for experienced writers and photographers who are willing to expand EPLN’s storytelling capabilities for less than market prices. Successful fundraising efforts will allow us to increase stipends over time.
Thank you for the support you have given EPLN in its first 15 months.
We look forward to continuing to tell the Story of Us for many months and years ahead.
All of us at EPLN wish all of you a Happy New Year!