A project of Democracy Fund

October 24, 2014

Local Fix: Making Time, Community Tools, Revenue Everywhere and Poetry


Welcome to the Local Fix. 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: Create a Collaborative Election Night “Open Newsroom.” The NJ News Commons is working with students, faculty, hyperlocal publishers, nonprofit journalists and more to build and maintain a live election map for anyone in the state to use as the results come in.

Infiltrating People’s Habits

A reoccurring focus here at the Local Fix is on bold and interesting experiments in community engagement. So we want to share some concrete tools to help. This week we spotted this list of 50 tools for online community engagementfrom Community Matters. Over at Copyblogger there is a useful guide to “Empathy Mapping” to help you get inside the head and heart of your community.

At Nieman Lab, Joseph Lichterman, looked at how Time magazine is “infiltrating people’s habits” to better engage readers and drive traffic. And Alexa Schirtzinger writes over on Medium that “The most forward-thinking media companies are obsessed with audience, with truly understanding whom they’re serving, and why.

An “All-of-the-Above” Revenue Strategy

I liked how Tony Biasotti described the new California Sunday Magazine as having an “all-of-the-above” revenue strategy in his CJR profile of the new publication. The digital and print magazine is offering subscriptions and memberships as well as letting people fund individual stories. They are also welcoming investors and selling sponsorships. In the public media sector, WBUR is launching a “BizLab” to reimagine revenue models outside of the pledge drive.

In an interview with Baratunde Thurston on his AOL webseries “Funded,” web video star and producer Issa Rae explains that her success has been due to the fact that she “had a grasp on my audience, could cater to them, listen to them.” Rae used YouTube ads, crowdsourcing and even a surprise celebrity connection to fund her work. By staying independent and small, Rae understood how to serve a specific audience and grow into new revenue streams over time. Rae’s web series “Awkward Black Girl” has been so successful that she is now expanding and helping others produce web videos.

Make Friends With The Clock

For many small local news sites there never seems to be enough time to cover all the stories you want and run your business. Some local publishers have implemented “Money Monday” to carve out time to focus on sales and administration. Others use daytime for reporting and evenings for sales. Whatever your strategy, time management is key. And according to this CJR article “Journalists are terrible” at it.

In an article from 2002, Poynter offers advice for “making friends with the clock.” Part of getting a grip on your time is stopping other people from wasting it (here are some tips). Another strategy focuses on breaking up big projects into smaller achievable goals. Alexander Charchar calls this “eating an elephant” and it is is the idea behind the “Getting Things Done” method of time management. Here is a great overview of GTD specifically for journalists.

Poetry and the Press

In honor of the Dodge Poetry Festival (the largest poetry event in North America) which kicks off this week, I’ve rounded up some great experiments combining poetry and reporting. The Center for Investigative Reporting has partnered with youth poets to combine spoken word poems with investigative journalism. Through its “newspoet” project NPR invited poets inside the newsroom to translate the work of journalism into verse. And in 2009, Israel’s oldest newspaper, Haaretz, temporarily replaced its staff with poets and authors.

There has been a long running and interesting debate about the intersections and conflicts between poets and journalists. Scott Gregory, of This Land Press, argues that “Poetry helps us confront the news.” At the Guardian, Roy Greenslade asks “Which tells the greatest truth – poetry or journalism?” Nieman Reports has two pieces on how poets and journalists can learn from each other. And at the Boston Globe, poet and journalist Howie Good reflects on how “Journalism has an emphasis on compression, clarity, urgency — all values that I’ve carried into my poetry.