(Wichita, Kansas) Photos by Fernando Salazar and T&J Studios

The Beacon, a nonprofit digital news organization dedicated to public service journalism for Kansas and Missouri, is expanding in 2021 as a regional news network.

The organization will launch a Wichita newsroom to begin publishing this summer, and expand its news operations in Kansas City. This transformational growth is spurred by support from the Wichita Foundation and the American Journalism Project, which conducted a community listening program this year in Wichita to better understand local information needs. 

“This is a natural next step to help serve the information needs of our region,” said Beacon Founder and Publisher Kelsey Ryan. “As someone from the Wichita area, I’m thrilled that more journalists  will be able to share critical stories that aren’t being told in South Central Kansas. People here want to be informed. They want to know that journalists are filing record requests, holding officials accountable and taking time to dig into the issues that matter.”

Grants from WCF and AJP will enable The Beacon to add key leadership positions, and each newsroom will operate with its own executive editor and editorial team. 

“The Wichita Community Foundation identifies critical broad-based community issues and seeks solutions for change,” said WCF President and CEO Shelly Prichard. “This initiative ties together local, regional and national partners to elevate and ensure the necessary evolution of news content and delivery.”  

Over the last decade, the journalism industry has seen seismic shifts with mass consolidation, hedge-fund ownership and layoffs. But locally controlled nonprofit and for profit news organizations are popping up across the country to fill the void and create sustainable, new models of journalism.  

One effort to help comes from the national service program, Report for America, which recently announced it will partially fund The Beacon’s efforts in 2021 with five more reporters for the new network in addition to The Kansas City Beacon’s current health care reporter. 

After a year of community listening and fundraising, The Kansas City Beacon began publishing in March 2020 — earlier than originally planned — to provide vital information about COVID-19. Since then, its four full-time staff members and dozens of contributors have published stories that led to direct impact in the Kansas City metro. The Beacon was named Emerging Publisher by Local Independent Online News Publishers earlier this year. 

To support this next phase in The Beacon’s growth and our commitment to journalism across the region, donate here. Donations will be matched through the end of the year. 

Follow the new social media accounts for The Wichita Beacon on Facebook and Twitter, and bookmark the new website, which will begin publishing stories this summer.

Sign up for The Wichita Beacon’s newsletter, where you’ll be the first to know about memberships and details about staff, events and topics we’ll cover.

Questions? Contact Kelsey Ryan, Beacon Founder & Publisher: kelsey@thebeacon.media.

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KELSEY RYAN is the Founder & Publisher of The Beacon, which has newsrooms in Kansas City and Wichita. Follow her on Twitter @kelsey_ryan