In 1903, three University of Southern California students launched a one-page mimeographed newspaper to serve the approximately 600 Japanese living in Los Angeles.  By 1910, the Japanese immigrant population had grown to 8,46l, and The Rafu Shimpo had become a full-fledged newspaper.

Today, the 118-year old publication is pivoting strategically to meet new challenges with the help of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. On July 16, the Foundation announced that The Rafu Shimpo is one of 26 news organizations to be awarded a Sustainable Publishing Solutions (SPS) grant. It is the sole Asian American and only Los Angeles area publication selected this year. 

 “We are grateful to the Knight Foundation for giving us the opportunity to develop our website capabilities,” stated Michael Komai, Rafu Shimpo publisher. 

“We congratulate all of these newsrooms on their selection for this grant. They represent a diverse and vital part of American history and culture and we are proud to stand with them.”

The grant, which is in its second year, is aimed at helping newsrooms leverage their publishing platforms to grow their audience and increase revenue. Each publication will receive a one-time investment of $20,000 that can go towards the adoption of a new content management system (CMS) or expansion of their existing one.  

“This is a unique opportunity that allows newsrooms to place their technical infrastructure at the forefront of their growth,” said Senior Vice President of Business Development Christina Shih. “The pandemic required publishers to not only change how they respond to reader needs, but also adjust internal production workflows — and this grant helps them make those innovations permanent.”

The Rafu Shimpo, the last bilingual news organization serving the Japanese population of Southern California, will similarly invest in both audience and revenue growth by making much-needed improvements to their existing site. 

Michael Grant, founder of Get Current Studio who was part of the selection team, pointed out that technical work comes with a price tag that is often out of reach for many local and ethnic media publishers. “This grant reduces the barrier of entry to having the kind of digital infrastructure that meets the standards of today’s web. The end result is news that reaches the communities in a time when local news is under duress.”

Other recipients are: Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, Phoenix, AZ; Black Voice News, Riverside, CA; Borderless Magazine, Chicago, IL; Charlottesville Tomorrow, Charlottesville, VA; The Community Voice, Wichita, KS; The Devil Strip, Akron, OH; El Tímpano, San Francisco, CA; Growing Community Media, Oak Park, IL; Houston DefenderNetwork, Houston, TX; KGNU Community Radio, Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins, CO; The Marjorie, Gainesville, FL; Maryland Matters, Takoma Park, MD; The Mendocino Voice, Mendocino County, CA; Ojai Valley News, Ojai, CA; Outlier Media, Detroit, MI; Plainsman Herald, Springfield, CO; Prison Journalism Project, Chicago, IL; QCity Metro, Charlotte, NC; Southerly, Louiseville, KY; Spotlight PA, Philadelphia, PA; The Sacramento Observer, Sacramento, CA; Truthout, Sacramento, CA; Voice of San Diego, San Diego, CA; Washington City Paper, Washington, DC; Wisconsin Watch, Madison, WI.

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