Local Fix: Envisioning a Local Social Newsroom, Money Talk, Stunning Visual Journalism

Welcome to the Local Fix, you can subscribe here. Each week we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news, starting with one good idea… 

One Good Idea: Explore Restorative Narratives. The Columbia Journalism Review recently profiled IVOH, which has launched a fellowship program to foster more journalism focused on stories of recovery and resilience in local communities. Read more here.

New Tips and Guides for Online Journalism

Every few weeks I pull together a round-up of useful guides on social media and online journalism tools. Platforms and practices change regularly, so I try to find the most current and useful tips. (A number of you have asked for an RSS feed of these links – and that is coming soon). It is one thing to know how these tools work, it is another to think deeply about how to make them work for you and your newsroom. Before you dive into the list below, I recommend readingthis interview with Jay Rosen of NYU and Melody Kramer of NPR.

Reddit Guide for Journalists – Storybench
How News Orgs Should Use Twitter – Parsely
Beginners Guide to Google Analytics – 99 Robots
15 Social Media Tools for Journalists – PBS MediaShift
5 Tools for Social Media Monitoring and Verification – Journalism.co.uk
17 Tools for Content Distribution – Buffer

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Local Fix: Creating amazing things online without starving, learning everyday and managing for change

Welcome to the Local Fix, you can subscribe here. Each week we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news, starting with one good idea… One Good Idea: Easter Eggs and Online Ads. Local publisher Howard Owens recently introduced a new ad format on his site and used the opportunity to create a contest that could engage readers and advertisers. He hid “easter eggs” in ads around the site with opportunities for people to win gift certificates and cash.

Never Stop Learning

Part of what we hope to achieve with our Local News Lab project – along with our partners at CUNY and Montclair State University – is to research best practices, experiment with new ideas on the ground in newsrooms and develop awesome new trainings on revenue and engagement. A new report from the Poynter Institute and the Knight Foundation suggests that we need to be investing in much more training opportunities to help journalists and news organizations meet the new challenges of a changing media landscape. Luis Gomez at Journo.biz offers seven key takeaways from the report.If you missed the recent Online News Association workshop on the business of journalism, ONA has a great write-up full of links to presentations and lessons learned. There are really useful tips on how community engagement, events, membership and social media can help boost the bottom line. ONA and Poynter are also teaming up to offer a leadership academy for women in digital media – applications open next month.

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The Local Fix: Race and Local Reporting, A Civic Impulse and New Rules for Mobile

If you are a fan of the Local Fix would you help spread the word about it? Share the subscribe link (https://tinyletter.com/jcstearns) with your networks and help us build the conversation about innovation in local news.Each week we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news, starting with one good idea… 

One Good Idea: Go Back to School. Last week NYU professor Jay Rosen posted a list of 21 ways journalism is changing. The post offers useful links and resources about the forces that are transforming the work we do.

Mobile Networks for Community Listening and Engagement

This week Andrew Haeg, one of the founders of the Public Insight Network, wrote on Medium about “How we can learn from what works online and on mobile to create journalism that’s deeply engaging and responsive to our communities’ needs.” From Yik Yak to text messages, Haeg explores how new mobile messaging networks can inform a community-driven approach to listening and reporting. As part of their massive report on Firestone and Liberia, ProPublica’s T. Christian Miller will be “filing dispatches from this investigation to WhatsApp subscribers in West Africa and beyond.” People can use the app to “discuss the story directly with Miller and share your own questions and experiences about Liberia’s civil war.”At Editor and Publisher Alan Mutter offers a list of new rules for mobile journalismincluding tips on: Reporting, Presentation, Analysis, Voice, and Sharing. Over at Street Fight, Damian Rollison further explores the mobile mind shift in consumers and how interactivity is shaping the way people seek out and consume news and information. Oh, and Google is giving mobile-friendly websites a boost in search rankings.

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Local Fix: Feedback Loops, Community Driven Revenue and Hope for Local News

Subscribe to the Local Fix to have it delivered via email each Friday. Each week we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news, starting with one good idea…

One Good Idea: Practice Public-Powered Multimedia. Check out this super usefulGoogle doc from the creators of Curious City which lists tools and tips for using multimedia strategies that bring your community into the reporting process.

Community Engagement is Good Business

ONA hosted an event focused on the business side of journalism last week in Phoenix. There are a lot of great resources coming out of the conversation there, but one that caught my eye was Steve Buttry’s blog post and slides on why community engagement is good business. The post is full of good links and ideas.

Over at Nieman Lab Caroline O’Donovan looks at Berkeleyside’s efforts to turn an engaged community into a profitable revenue stream through their new membership program. And Mathew Ingram describes how Ben Thompson hasmade a living from a thousand passionate fans. This week also marks the end of the Radviotopia Kickstarter campaign in which they raised more than $600,000 from nearly 22,000 people. I wrote about ten crowdfunding lessons from the campaign, with a focus on how building community can make or break a Kickstarter campaign.

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Local Fix: The Ups and Downs of Local News, Art, Banners, and a List of Lists

Subscribe to get the Local Fix delivered each Friday. Each week we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news, starting with one good idea… One Good Idea: OK, sometimes one idea isn’t enough. NPR’s Melody Kramer pulled together the best newsroom experiments and innovations from election night this week. Take a look at the great examples she collected and let them inspire your next project.

Ups and Downs

Just weeks after the new Philly news org Billy Penn went live there is another new local journalism start-up in the city: Philly Voice. Word of Philly Voice came the same week that the Philly-based Gun Crisis Reporting Project announced it was “curtailing operations.” “After publishing every day for more than two and a half years — illuminating the epidemic of gun violence in Philadelphia and seeking solutions — the Gun Crisis Reporting Project will cease daily reporting this Friday, November 7th,” an announcement on the site read. We also learned this week that the pioneering Homicide Watch DC would be closing its doors as of January 1 unless a local organization steps up to take the reins of the project. And yet, in New Jersey a cohort of new local start-ups are coming online including theVillageGreenNJ, Highland Park Planet and MercerME.All of these sites embody different reporting and revenue models. What do we make of the tumultuous and uneven landscape of local news right now? How can we work together across business models and geographies to support great people who are testing out new ideas? All these ups and downs are a reminder of how hard this work is. There is no silver bullet for sustainability, but we are much more likely to hit the target if we take aim together.

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10 Crowdfunding Lessons From The Radiotopia Kickstarter Campaign

The Radiotopia Kickstarter campaign comes to a close today after raising more than $600,000 from nearly 22,000 fans.

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The success of a campaign like this is a complex alchemy of passion, mission, timing and tenacity. There are a million things you can’t control, good and bad surprises abound. And yet, over the last month the Radiotopia team has run a superb and engaging campaign. Anyone thinking about crowdfunding for their project – regardless of what platform you choose — should study what the team at PRX and Radiotopia did.

Here are ten lessons from Radiotopia’s Kickstarter Campaign:

1) Sell the values, not the thing.

The Radiotopia campaign was never about just supporting some podcasts, it was about “remaking public media.” The Radiotopia team always led with the values and vision they were bringing to the table. This is especially important for mission-driven crowdfunding efforts like journalism and documentary projects, but even with gadgets or other products, crowdfunding tends to be about selling a story not a thing. “It’s not just an amazing group of podcasts, it’s an amazing group of people” writes Roman Mars on the campaign’s homepage. “Radiotopia is bringing a listener-first, creator-driven ethos to public radio.” The team was explicit about tapping into their audience’s values – a love of storytelling and public media – and made it clear how a donation wouldn’t just fund a podcast, it would help you feed your passion.

2) This isn’t just a fundraiser, it is a friend-raiser.

Kickstarter campaigns are about raising money. But that’s not all they accomplish. The best campaigns become a locus of attention and activity for a passionate group of people to come together and support a shared vision. The Radiotopia crew understood this, and they made their campaign as much about making friends as it was about making money. Early on in the campaign Roman Mars introduced one of the campaign’s key goals: To reach 20,000 donors. Yes, that goal carried with it a financial challenge from a corporate sponsor, but what was more important for the longterm sustainability of the collective, is that it presented an opportunity to introduce Radiotopia to legions of new people (and to turn current fans into donors, even if only at $1 each). One of the campaign rewards was even a chance to be connected with other fans as pen pals. The best Kickstarter campaigns are not just financial investments, but also investments in relationships between creators and their community. Continue reading

Five Kinds of Listening for Newsrooms and Communities


In 2002 NPR’s vice president for diversity, then a faculty member at the Poynter Institute, described an idea he called “The Listening Post.” “Journalists interested in telling more of a community’s ‘truth’ need to establish listening posts in the places that fall outside the routine of journalism,” he wrote. “They have to leave the office, the neighborhood, maybe even the comfort of personal likes and dislikes in order to make this happen.”

More than ten years later Internews and local New Orleans public radio station WWNO launched a project with the same name and built on some of the shared values. The New Orleans Listening Post combines digital recording stations across the community with text messages and online engagement to “establish a two-way conversation with the citizens of New Orleans” where they can both contribute ideas and commentary to the newsroom and also receive news and information about their community. Internews and WWNO partners with Groundsource for the project which is building a mobile first, text message based platform for listening.

Almost 1,000 miles to the north, Jenn Brandel is pioneering a different kind of listening project called Curious City at Chicago’s public radio station WBEZ. Curious City is part journalism project, part listening platform, and in the words of Brandel, is “powered by open questions.” The Curious City team has collected thousands of questions from Chicago residents in the field, via a toll-free number and online via their custom-built platform. The public gets to vote on what questions journalists pursue, and the Curious City team brings the public into the reporting project along the way.

From Transactional to Transformational Listening

Last November I wrote about the need for listening and empathy in journalism, arguing that “better reflecting and responding to our communities has to start with better listening.” A year later, I’m encouraged by the growth of projects like The Listening Post and Curious City as well as the many newsrooms who are hosting events dedicated to listening to the diverse voices of their communities.

While these promising experiments and new start-ups a proving the value of deeper forms of listening, as an industry we still have a lot to learn. Listening is after all not a passive act, but rather an active skill that we can learn and employ strategically. As the examples above make clear there are many different kinds of listening with different goals and outcomes. Below I’ve tried to map out five models for listening at the intersection of newsrooms and communities. Continue reading