WITF and Steinman Communications Complete Transaction Gifting LNP | LancasterOnline to the Central PA Public Media Organization
Combination is first of its kind in the nation in a rural-suburban region
Steinman Communications Inc. and WITF Inc. have completed a transaction that gifts LNP | LancasterOnline to WITF, setting the combined organization on a path to innovate a new model for local news, community education and civic engagement in Central Pennsylvania.
Steinman Communications, which is owned by the Steinman family, gifted LNP to WITF as a capstone to the family’s two centuries of community service and philanthropy. The boards of directors for WITF and Steinman Communications approved the gift of LNP to WITF in April. LNP has been converted to a Pennsylvania Benefit Corporation and is now a WITF subsidiary. As a single mission-driven enterprise, WITF and LNP will:
- Expand and diversify local news platforms, education programs and forums for civic engagement
- Build on local journalism that shines a light on government decision-making, serves as a check on public spending and holds elected leaders accountable
- Fill the void in local journalism created as other media organizations retrench or close
- Expand equitable access to proven, effective education programs for learners regionally and statewide
While there have been a handful of other collaborations between public media organizations and for-profit media organizations in recent years, they have occurred in large metropolitan areas. The combination of WITF and LNP is the first in the nation in a region like Central Pennsylvania.
“With its dispersed rural and suburban communities, Central Pennsylvania is representative of areas across the United States where a decade-long crisis in journalism has been most devastating,” WITF President and CEO Ron Hetrick said. “Our vision is to buck national trends and make Central Pennsylvania a shining example of a region where local news thrives and builds community. We will focus not only on producing and distributing relevant news, but also on cultivating a curious, critical and engaged audience for news. Realizing this vision will have transformative benefits regionally while creating a model that can be replicated nationally.”
Since 2005, the country has lost over a fourth of its newspapers (2,500) and is on track to lose a third by 2025, according to a study published by the Local News Initiative. Seventy million people live in over 200 counties without a newspaper or in one of 1,630 counties with only one paper. Regionally in WITF’s 19-county service area, every newspaper except for LNP has made drastic newsroom cuts.
Compounding this crisis is declining trust and media literacy among consumers of news. According to Gallup, just 34 percent of Americans said they trust mass media to report news “fully, accurately and fairly,” while just seven percent have a “great deal” of trust and confidence in media. A Stanford University study found that 82 percent of middle school students and 70 percent of high school students were unable to differentiate between sponsored content and news articles. A Pew study reported that only about a quarter of adults were able to correctly differentiate five factual statements from five opinion statements.
“As a single organization, WITF and LNP will make deeper investments in local journalism and advance our commitment to education and civic engagement,” Hetrick said. “We will provide more learning opportunities and tools to empower people to critically analyze and evaluate the credibility of news content through customized K-12, college and adult education programs. We will encourage greater civic engagement by hosting more forums where diverse voices can participate in conversations about community matters that are important to them.”
With seed funding by the The Steinman Foundation, WITF also has established The Steinman Institute for Civic Engagement to support local journalism, education and community engagement.
“Local journalism as a means to foster a more informed and engaged citizenry has never been more important,” said Robert Krasne, chair of the board of managers of The Steinman Institute for Civic Engagement. “The Steinman Institute will concentrate on building stronger communities by researching, developing and advancing innovations in the areas of local news consumption and delivery, media literacy, and ways in which citizens participate in civic life.”
Founded by educators in 1963, WITF has been an essential part of the civic, educational and cultural fabric of Central Pennsylvania for 60 years. The Steinman family owned and operated what today is LNP | LancasterOnline, Lancaster County’s top source of news and information, for nearly 158 years and four generations. Together, WITF and LNP will serve almost three million people – about a quarter of Pennsylvania’s population – in 19 counties in Central Pennsylvania.
About WITF Inc.
WITF, Inc. is an educational organization that inspires lifelong learning. We create connections with people and their communities through trusted journalism, thoughtful discussions, entertainment and educational experiences. WITF’s media services include WITF TV and WITFK PBS KIDS 24/7 (PBS and PBS KIDS public television member stations); WITF 89.5 & 93.3 (NPR public radio member stations); digital content (including witf.org, StateImpact Pennsylvania, Mosaic and ExplorePAhistory.com); LNP, Lancaster County’s daily newspaper; LancasterOnline, the number one news site in Lancaster County; The Lititz Record-Express (serving Lititz and Manheim); The Ephrata Review (serving Ephrata and Cocalico); The Caucus (a state government accountability journalism publication); LNP Media Group, Inc. (a marketing agency); and Media Solutions (a production services division). For more information, visit witf.org.