A project of Democracy Fund

June 18, 2014

The Local Fix: Solutions, Opinions and Collaborations

Welcome to the Local Fix, where we look back at the week’s journalism debates through the lens of local news. Once a week we will be curating some of the best writing on journalism sustainability and pairing it with concrete advice, tools and resources for local journalists. Sign up here to have the Local Fix delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Have tips? Send them to jstearns@grdodge.org or on Twitter to @jcstearns. 

  • One Good Idea – DigBoston has a list of the best outdoor patios in Boston with details about key tables and the best hours for sunshine at each restaurant. This is the kind of post that people will keep coming back to all summer. (spotted via tweet from @mollygaller)

Everything else….

1) Journalism for Problem Solving – a look at solutions journalism

Often we talk about new services we can provide to better serve communities, but sometimes all it takes is to shift how we tell our stories.  A new report out this week found that readers liked stories that not only described a problem but also included possible solutions. Readers reported being more satisfied with the story and being more interested in learning about the issue after reading pieces modeled on solutions journalism practices. For more on solutions journalism see this round up of essays and this interview with David Bornstein of the Solutions Journalism Network. Also, the Network offers tools and funding for reporting projects that seek to employ a solutions oriented approach.

>>> Want to hear more about solutions journalism or discuss how to implement a solutions approach to a story you are working on? Let me know.

2) Paying In Answers Instead of Dollars – using surveys as an alternative to paywalls

The Columbia Missourian recently announced that it was tearing down its paywall and instead would be asking its readers to fill out short Google Survey’s to get access to the site. They are not alone. Since Google announced their survey program a roughly 300 sites have experimented with it. In December, The American Journalism Review described how the surveys work: “The surveys require site visitors to answer a marketing research question … in exchange for access to the website’s content. Google then pays publishers five cents for each question answered.” According to AJR the results of the surveys vary greatly depending on how they are implemented (Google provides a lot of flexibility in how you set up the surveys), but that many sites report good returns and decent revenue from the surveys.

>>> Whether or not you have a paywall you could test the surveys on your site. After someone reads 10 articles they could get a survey, survey’s could be hooked to just one part of the site (like a local food guide), or paying members could avoid surveys all together.

3) The Rise of Big Opinions – fostering conversation, native ads or both?

5457532474_16d9b4cffa_bLast month the Texas Tribune launched a new section of its site called “TribTalk” which combines opinion pieces and reader submitted posts with paid sponsored content. Does keeping sponsored posts in a special opinion section add more transparency and help delineate between it and the news? The Tribune hopes so. The Tribune is asking for between $2,500 to $12,500 depending on the kind of post. But that’s not the only way people are trying to make money off of the opinion pages. This week the New York Times launched a new stand alone app called NYT Opinion which includes both Times opinion content and curated opinion pieces from around the web. In addition, the Washington Post just launched a new opinion site called PostEverything.

>>> The opinion sections of newspapers have long been heavily read by local people as well as decision makers. These new strategies seek to make the sites more of a hub for important civic debates and, in some cases, make a few extra bucks too. At the very local level, there is an opportunity to take a cue from both of these strategies, but managing these sites – both the content and the comments – takes time and a defined strategy from the outset.

4) Catalysts for Collaboration – new sites try to make the connection

The NJ News Commons has done tremendous work inside New Jersey, helping to connect newsrooms and support collaboration in a range of ways. If you aren’t using their story exchange, powered by Repost.us, you should be (and be sure to check out the collaborative immigration project too). More and more, people are trying to help support these kinds of projects. Earlier this year PBS MediaShift launched CollabMatch, a site that uses GitHub and LinkedIn to help people find collaborators and creative partners for their projects. The site is still in private beta, but if you are interested in testing it out let me know.  And this week a global journalism matching making service launched. The founders of Hostwriter describe it as a platform for journalists to connect with other journalists working on common stories world wide. The site is designed to foster information sharing, editorial collaboration, and even help finding accommodations when journalists are reporting away from home.

>>> Have a project and looking for help with design, data, mapping and more? Reach out to the NJ News Commons – they can help.

Local Events – mark your calendar

Image via Flickr user katiett, used under creative commons.