A project of Democracy Fund

July 7, 2017

Local Fix: Amplifying Awesome Journalism, Smart Strategies for Subscriptions and Memberships


Welcome to the Local Fix. In our weekly newsletter we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news.  But first, we always begin with one good idea…

One Good Idea: Clear the way for journalists to connect with audiences
“Everyone agrees that journalism exists to serve readers. Yet in practice managers rarely reward journalist-reader interactions as a worthwhile use of time.” Emily Goligoski, the new research lead for the Membership Puzzle Project, has a great piece this week about the shifts we need to imagine to open ourselves up to new relationships with our communities.

Steal These Membership Ideas

At the heart of the Membership Puzzle Project is exploring how to design a news organization that is optimized for trust, from its business model to its editorial strategy. A series of recent articles on newsroom membership and subscriber programs explore similar issues and offer some very good ideas you should steal: from using editor annotations as a member benefit to letting local people become investors and part owners of your newsroom. Beyond the specific tactics each newsroom is using, it is useful to also pay attention to how they make the case for support. We need to rethink the way we talk to our communities about our work and listen to how people outside newsrooms express the value of journalism in their lives.

Amplifying Local News Through Collaboration

The Institute for Nonprofit News launched a new project recently that will serve as a collaboration and distribution hub helping connect local and regional news organizations across the midwest, amplifying their coverage and getting it in front of new audiences. While local news is necessarily local, there is a huge chance for content sharing across regions where communities are grappling with similar issues and challenges. INN believes that building on these common themes, the 20 nonprofit newsrooms who are part of this initial pilot can dramatically expand their reach, get national attention for their stories and increase their impact. Below are a few other good reads on how collaboration is driving audience growth at local newsrooms.

Local Journalists Feel the Impact of Trump’s Tweets

On Sunday the President of the United States tweeted a video of himself that had been edited to appear that he was physically attacking CNN. This is only the most recent in a long line of Trump attacks on the media. Much of his rhetoric has been aimed at national outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN. But James Warren at Poynter and Jonathan Peters at Columbia Journalism Review have both tracked the “trickle down” effect of the current climate of press criticism and attacks on local journalists. As I read the accounts of local newsrooms I thought back to the courageous response from the Arizona Republic’s when they received threats back in October. While these debates may feel at times like wars being waged inside DC, we know that many of you are on the front lines in your communities and we believe you are critical voices in reasserting the value of journalism in America. Keep it up, and reach out anytime to share what you are seeing in your area.
The Local Fix is a project of the Democracy Fund’s Public Square Program, which invests in innovations and institutions that are reinventing local media and expanding the public square. Disclosure: Some projects mentioned in this newsletter may be funded by Democracy Fund, you can find a full list of the organizations we support on our website.