This guest post by Amy Gahran originally appeared on the Knight Digital Media Center website. It is reposted here with permission.
Like any publisher, people who provide community news or information have legal concerns. Especially, how can you minimize the risk of lawsuits that could threaten your scarce resources and time — without compromising your ethics, mission, or community? In a Jan. 8 call-in podcast, Rutgers University law professor Ellen Goodman answered general questions about local publishers and the law.
Goodman, who authored the nonprofit media section of the landmark 2011 Knight/FCC report on theInformation Needs of Communities, shared her legal expertise related to local news gathering and publishing. Currently she’s working on a project in which journalism and law students are collaboratively developing a legal FAQ for local news reporters and publishers, focusing on digital media and relatively new entrants to the field (such as bloggers and citizen journalists)
In this podcast (presented by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, N.J.), Goodman took a call about the difficulty that local news publishers often have in acquiring libel insurance. She offered the context that U.S. courts generally tend to support publishers in libel and defamation cases; it’s very hard for plaintiffs to win. Still, the time and cost of responding to such lawsuits can be overwhelming. Liability insurance usually is used to cover the cost of fighting claims (or getting them dismissed), rather than to pay damages. Continue reading
Local, hard-hitting watchdog journalism is alive and kicking in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The team behind New Brunswick Today is taking on some of the area’s most important stories, covering city corruption, making government more transparent, and giving diverse communities across the city a voice.
Since 2011, this independent, bilingual community news organization has been providing fearless, independent coverage on a shoestring budget. This week they launched a crowd-funding campaign, asking the city they love to help them grow, bring on more reporters and expand the impact of their reporting.
At the Dodge Foundation we chose New Brunswick Today as one of six partner newsrooms for our journalism sustainability project because we were excited about their mission and passion for serving the people of New Brunswick. They are digital first but print a monthly newspaper to reach parts of their community who don’t have easy access to the web. They seek out sources in the community and publish in English and Spanish. They are creative, passionate, and generous, testing new ideas and offering lessons and advice to other community news organizations across the state.
Most of all, they are risk takers, willing to tackle tough topics and stand up for the public’s right to know. But they can’t do it alone. That’s why the Dodge Foundation is matching the first $5,000 in community donations to New Brunswick Today. Continue reading
At the end of last year Kristin Hare of the Poynter Institute was collecting tech resolutions for 2015 and asked for mine. Here is what I wrote:
In 2015 I want to help more journalists build with their communities, not just for their communities.
At so many publications, journalists are rebuilding their newsrooms around new technologies from smartphones to social networks. But for the most part, the community is left on the other side of the screen. In 2015 there is a huge opportunity to engage communities in the work of helping build powerful journalism.
I want to help newsrooms design reporting projects, engagement strategies, web apps and more, through deeper collaboration, listening and empathy with our communities. Building for the community puts people at the end of the process. Building with community puts them at the start.
In the new year, let’s start the debate about journalism and technology with our communities.
At the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation we believe that journalism sustainability is rooted in building stronger relationships between communities and newsrooms. The distinction between “building with” instead of “building for” feels at first like semantics. However, when we begin to use it as a lens to examine journalism as both a process and a product, we see numerous small and large ways it challenges the status quo. Continue reading
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: Turn National Data Into Local Stories. There are lots of opportunities for local newsrooms to build on data sets complied by national publications like ProPublica and the New York Times. PBS MediaShift has a good post on how one journalist localized NYT data on police racial disparity.
Why I Started The Local Fix
I started this newsletter because I saw a gap in the national discussion about the future of journalism. Endless attention was (and is) being paid to the big national start-ups and the experiments happening in the largest newsrooms. But I wanted to write about, and support, the amazing working happening with small teams in local newsrooms. I wanted to sift through the national debates and pull out lessons that are actually useful for local reporters and publishers. Thanks for reading and sending tips, ideas and questions my way.
In the Guardian this week Felix Salmon argues that the rise of digital media giants like BuzzFeed, Gawker and others poses a range challenges for small digital publishers who aren’t interested in scale. However, Mathew Ingram of Giga Ommakes the case that, in fact, there has never been a better time to run a niche media business. Margaret Quilter at NetNewsCheck seems to echo this sentiment, in a piece where she looks at the growth of hyperlocal sites heading into 2015. The folks at IVOH also rounded up five stories of promising changes in local journalism.