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March 4, 2016

Local Fix: Wicked Problems, Against Scale and Links to Learn Something New


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: You Autocomplete Me
Wired wins for clever idea of the week: their short and entertaining video with actress Angela Bassett featured questions from Google searches, like “Is Angela Bassett a vegan?” and “Was Angela Bassett in the Thriller video?” This is a perfect idea to experiment with. What are people Googling about your community and who might be able to answer? Maybe it’s a Google autocomplete interview with a local celebrity, policy maker, artist or activist? Use the curiosity of your community and let us know if you try something like this video. See also Mashable’s map detailing what each state wants according to Google autocomplete

What is the Right Scale for Local News?

Rafat Ali defines scale as making sure his site’s reporting is a big part of the lives of community he covers (in his case this is the travel industry). He juxtaposes that notion of scale with “scale for scale sake… a model that may ultimately eat itself.” “Ad blocking, platform dependence, clickbait, every trouble media is in today is a result of this quest of scale for scale sake,” argues Ali. In local news, one of the dangers of playing the scale game is that it tends to force newsrooms into a box, into doing the same thing as everyone else, into erasing the unique character that makes us local. Here at the Local Fix we think that the long terms success of local news will depend on deeply knowing and serving our communities not endlessly competing for other people’s eyeballs. We like to talk about innovation at a human scale, defined not by reach but by relationships.  Here are a few more pieces on rethinking scale. 

Great Links for Training and Advice

Occasionally we like to highlight good resources, round-ups and lists of tools and advice that you can bookmark, and refer back to in your daily work. Here are a few we found recently:

Your Community’s Wicked Problems

Do you have issues in your community that seem intractable? Is your community grappling with problems that seem utterly intertwined with other problems? Does every stakeholder define the problem differently?  There is a name for these kinds of problems: Wicked Problems. Journalism can help communities grapple with these complex problems, or it can further complicate the debates. Here are a few useful explorations and some concrete advice for newsrooms who want to tackle wicked problems. 

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.