NEWARK, DELAWARE — Delaware First Media News, an independent news site specializing in news and commentary about goings-on in the Diamond State, grew from seeds planted in the nonprofit sector. As explained by Micheline Boudreau, DFM’s president and a former news director of a public television station in Delaware, all of the journalists who came together to create the website began in nonprofit journalism—a fact which shines through in every aspect of the paper’s public interest-oriented content.
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DFM News was created to contribute to and improve Delaware’s journalism community, and to deliver original, in-depth coverage of topics affecting the state. According to Boudreau, Delaware has been acutely affected by the decline in print media, partly because coverage of the state had been supplemented by larger papers in Philadelphia and Baltimore. When those papers needed to cut costs, Delaware correspondents were low-hanging fruit. Boudreau saw a chance to fill a void and create a Delaware-specific online news source. As she puts it: “We believe that a Delaware-based news service that is headquartered, rooted, and squarely focused here will better withstand future economic challenges. Our number one priority, focus, and corporate mission is to serve the residents of Delaware, period.”
The Delaware-centric site began covering events of national import less than a year after it launched in June 2009; the DFM team provided extensive coverage of Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell’s surprise primary win, and continued through to her defeat at the hands of Democrat Chris Coons. Drawing from their public TV roots, DFMN is perhaps the first digital news startup to have their own nightly news-style DFM logo-adorned microphone to stick in politician’s faces. They do so frequently, and one of the highlights of the site is its extensive video coverage. Beginning with an exclusive focus on government and politics, DFM News changed course and expanded to a full-fledged digital journal which includes business, health, and education sections, among others.
As the site declares, “we seek to give Delawareans the tools they need to participate in the civic functions of their communities.” The site’s content is geared more toward storytelling and analysis than breaking news. Its sober design and focus on serious topics wouldn’t immediately seem to match the homemade and intimate tone of the writing—yet the two mesh quite well.
DFM’s fundraising success has been remarkable, and is continuing to pick up steam. From the beginning, fundraising at DFM was a group effort. When raising money to start the site, the group of journalists who founded DFM chipped in their own funds, of course, but also shared in the effort to solicit funds from local foundations and corporations. Once they had earned enough “venture philanthropy” to start DFM, they then took their cause to the University of Delaware. Boudreau describes their relationship with the university as an “exchange of services.” In exchange for the office space that serves as their newsroom and administrative offices, the DFM News staff offer themselves up for lectures in the university’s journalism department and train students through an internship program. All of these fundraising building blocks add up. The site began a $2.7 million fundraising campaign in 2011, which will sustain the operation through 2014.
Although Boudreau are working to expand to television and further into radio (they currently partner with the closest NPR affiliate station, Public Radio Delmarva), Boudreau says she is happy to keep her focus in the digital realm, where the reaction of readers can be heard instantly and the paper can learn and grow from it, and where DFM News and other nonprofit journalism sites can work to strengthen and improve each other.
Delaware First Media News Data
Name: Delaware First Media News
Principal Staff: Micheline Boudreau, president.
Affiliations: University of Delaware; Delmarva Public Radio.