Speaker Bio

Manuel Coppola

Publisher of Wick Communications Co./Nogales International

Funding News: Media organizations successfully find philanthropic help for their missions

With nearly 25 years in community journalism, including 15 years at the helm as the publisher of an award-winning border newspaper in Nogales, Ariz., Manuel C. Coppola has seen his share of industry disruptions. He graduated from Northern Arizona University with a BS in journalism and a minor in political science in 1985 when journos still typed out stories on IBM Selectrics. Technology has come a long way but he still sees the essence of local newspaper journalism unchanged, not only as the most credible source of information but an important tool for building and binding communities. His work has been on the Southern Arizona border region. He served as publisher at The Dispatch in Douglas, Ariz., and at the Sierra Vista Herald-Review, engaging in the coverage by such formidable issues as water and environment, international trade, bilingual education, and human migration. But as a reporter, some of his favorite assignments were hyperlocal, focusing on people and places that are unique to their communities, like the senior center where participants find comfort in each others’ company, singing timeless classics from Mexico, and creating amazing arts and crafts. Or, the 77-year-old Maria Torres who annually assembles an intricate array of nativity scenes outside her trailer home with hundreds of figurines she has collected since she was 12 and living in Mexico. Her message: “It’s not all about Santa Claus and presents.” It is this spirit of community building that underlies his latest endeavor, a reporting project about how monolingual Spanish-speaking residents are too often left out of the decision-making process in a border community. Thanks to the philanthropic funding lab for journalism developed by the Local Media Association in partnership with the Seattle Times, Coppola has raised donations to hire a reporter who is assigned exclusively to this complex issue. Her first story out of the gate resonated with the local mayor who reversed his decision to nix the Call to the Public portion at regular City Council meetings after reading her story. That is precisely the kind of impact that fuels Coppola’s passion for newspapers, but also his efforts to preserve the legacy of community journalism through traditional revenue sources as well as philanthropic channels to actively fight back the growing threat to American democracy – news deserts. Coppola and his wife, Irene, live in a community north of Nogales and have six adult children, four grandchildren, with another on the way.

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