A project of Democracy Fund

October 23, 2015

Local Fix: Real Talk on Diversity, Philanthropy and Tips for Crowdsourcing


Welcome to the Local Fix. Each week 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: Know What Your Journalism Does
In 2010 journalist Jonathan Stray asked, what is the work that journalism does and how do we know? “I’m less interested in what journalism does in extraordinary times,” Stray writes, “and more interested in how the journalist’s work improves the day-to-day operation of a society, and the experiences of the people living in it.” Dick Tofel, president of ProPublica argues “different sorts of journalism have different objectives, and therefore will produce— seek to produce—quite different sorts of impact.” To understand the what your journalism does you have to know what you want it to do and be able to articulate that. To that end, we recently came across this idea: How would you fill in these blanks (or what would you alternative one line be?) “We are going to do ______, to make ______ better, as measured by ______, and is worth _____.”

If You Want to Crowdsource, You Need to Know the Crowd

If we care about participatory journalism we have to understand why people participate. This week we got a sneak peak at some new research from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism on why people participate in crowdsourced journalism projects. In a different post, Andrew Haeg explores how text messaging can be a powerful tool for crowdsourcing. After developing the Public Insight Network, Haeg’s new project GroundSource is being used to create feedback loops between newsrooms and communities. His post is particularly useful for the hands on examples and case studies he offers. 

Other posts this week look at what nonprofits can learn from engagement editors in newsrooms and how we can shift from comments to conversations.  

Towards a Journalism That Reflects the Whole Community

Tracie Powell of All Digitocracy sat down with Nieman Lab’s Laura Hazard Owen to discuss media diversity and why newsrooms must embrace emerging audiences and broaden their hiring practices, which she believes is the first and best way to build engaged and invested audiences. “We need to hire more people who are less like us,” she noted. “I was at ONA a couple of weeks ago, and I remember hearing an editor, a very high-profile editor, say he hires for ‘fit and personality.’ Well, I think that’s part of the problem. These editors keep hiring people who quote-unquote ‘fit.’ We need to start hiring some misfits so that they can bring a fresh perspective to our coverage.” Writing over at Transom, Stephanie Foo adds, “A diverse staff will lead you to a broader range of ideas. And new ideas bring new listeners. If you’re in storytelling or media, new, competitive, different ideas are the pillars your entire business rests on.”

Both of these pieces are must reads, and don’t miss Geneva Overholser’s recent Heart Lecture for Florida International University which deeply resonated with us.

(Hey friends! We just relaunched the Local Fix and could really use your help sharing the new URL. If you like the newsletter please help build the community. Here is the new URL: tinyletter.com/localfix)

Don’t Try This At Home: Tips From Funders on How Not to Get a Grant

And now from the What-NOT-To-Do file. When it comes to getting funding from a foundation, the decision-making process often seem like a mystery, but some recent posts try to bring transparency to the process. Michele McLellan, writing for the Knight Digital Media Center, notes that making your request about journalism might get this response, “Great. But we’re not a journalism funder.” In world of foundations, there aren’t that many journalism funders so you may have more success if you approach a funder with an idea or a problem to solve that matches issues the foundation is interested in. Ruth Levine of the Hewlett Foundation has many other critical tips on what not to do, including this: Don’t “make only vague statements about how financial support to your organization would translate into more or better activities, and then follow that up with even vaguer statements about how those activities would contribute to a Big Goal.”

We were also part of a panel at the Online News Association on this topic, where we talked about funding both nonprofit and for-profit newsrooms. Since we have a unique perspective on philanthropy, please feel free to send us philanthropy-related questions we can address in future issues of this newsletter. 

Small Teams, Big Networks: Social Media Tips for Local Newsrooms

Regular readers of the newsletter know that occasionally we round up creative social media tips that are particularly useful for newsrooms with small teams. Below are a few posts that caught our attention over recent weeks. Are you using social media in unexpected ways? Is there one trick you use every day with your team? We’d love to hear your stories and share them with the field. 

Have a good weekend,
Molly and Josh 

The Local Fix is a project of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s Local News Lab, a website where we are exploring creative experiments in journalism sustainability.