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September 24, 2014

Local Fix: Trust, Disasters, Diversity and Twitter Investigations


Subscribe to have the Local Fix delivered every 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 IdeaBe OptimisticThe Washington Post has a new weekly newsletter, “The Optimist,” that features “part feel-good, part success-against-all-odds” stories. The topic aside, what stood out for me is how many different newsletters the Post has developed around various themes. Each of themes emphasizes meeting the specific needs of their readers.

When A Twitter Investigation Goes Right

After watching social media investigations around breaking news events go terribly wrong, I was more than a little curious this week when one seemed to go right. Within a few hours after Philly police released video of suspects of a recent hate crime Twitter users had tracked down the suspects’ identities. However, rather than turning into a witch-hunt the search was handled respectfully and carefully. Melody Kramer traced how the evidence was collected. It is a useful overview for local newsrooms thinking about mining social media for information and collaborating with communities online. TLDR, the blog and podcast from the team at WNYC’s On The Media, followed up with a good interview with the Twitter user at the center of the effort.

For a counterpoint, it is worth looking back at the Atlantic’s “Anatomy of a Misinformation Disaster” from the Boston Marathon bombing and Slate’s chronicle of mistakes made in the days after the bombing. I collected much of the writing about breaking news, social media and verification in the wake of the marathon bombing here. Finally, Mike Ananny’s meditation on social media, breaking news and the value of silence is a must read.

>>> Facebook announced “Facebook Media” this week pulling together all of its advice and resources for journalists into one place.   

When We Lose Trust

Screenshot 2014-09-23 12.58.56“Only a third of Hispanics and a quarter of African Americans believe their communities are accurately portrayed in the media.” That’s one of the key take-aways in a new report released by the American Press Institute this week. Even with the rise of new platforms and technology, the API report found that “Fewer than half of African Americans and Hispanics think it is easier to keep up with news about their specific communities today compared with five years ago.” The report is full of useful discussion and findings about where communities turn for news, and their perceptions of the coverage they find.

I hope local newsrooms will take the time to review the report and that it prompts some critical discussions about how we can better serve our communities. If you did a similar survey in your area what would the results be? Do you have the tools and processes in place to get that kind of feedback from your audience? See further coverage of the report at Poynter and the Associated Press.

>>> Gallup reports that trust in “mass media” returns to an all-time low. Jay Rosen has a good piece from two years ago discussing why he thinks trust in media is still so rocky.

When Disaster Strikes 

In the new Nieman Reports, John Dyer makes the case for not just reporting on disasters but also on disaster preparedness (or the lack thereof). “Inspired by the likelihood of future megastorms, earthquakes, and record-breaking droughts,” he writes, “journalists are increasingly pursuing a new model of reporting that investigates whether communities are prepared for looming calamities.” In the piece he positions disaster preparedness coverage as a new, and vital, form of watchdog reporting.

On a related note, Current has a long read on preparing newsrooms to cover local crises, with lesson from three public media stations. Their advice includes: 1) Practice, imagine, prepare, 2) Train staff to multitask, 3) Fortify your facilities 4) Use blogs and data. The Radio, TV, Digital News Association has a checklist for preparing a newsroom crisis plan and NPR digital services has a huge amount of good local case studies on breaking news.

>>> While not focused on crises or disasters, Poynter looks at “How small newsrooms can go big when news comes to town.”

When We Design For Younger News Consumers

Recently, there has been a lot of attention on how big news organizations, from Al Jazeera to Vice, are making in-roads with 18-35 year olds. Last week Al Jazeera launched AJ+ focused on creating a platform for engagement and editorial content. Meanwhile a Norwegian public radio station is using Snapchat to connect with younger audiences. And over at the New York Times David Carr took a look at Vice’s rapid growth.

While there is a lot we can learn from these national and international efforts, I wondered how local newsrooms are connecting with younger audiences, listening to their needs and reporting on their issues. There isn’t much written about local newsrooms and youth – so send me tips if your station is doing great work. In theGuardian, Emma Howard talked with youth media makers themselves and drew outsix lessons and Current looks at how Youth Radio brings the voice and stories of young people to NPR stations around the country.

>>> A community college paper dropped print and became the first college paper to focus its publishing on Medium.