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March 3, 2017

Local Fix: Better Business Models, Localizing Trust, and Beating Burnout

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Welcome to the Local Fix newsletter. Get the Fix in your inbox by subscribing at tinyletter.com/localfix.

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: Use Documentary, Poetry and Journalism to Bridge Divides

Screenshot of Whitman Alabama video subjects
For two years, Jennifer Crandall has served as an artist in residence at a local Alabama newspaper chain. The culmination of that work is Whitman, Alabama, a participatory documentary based on Walt Whitman’s epic poem “Song of Myself.” Through short videos of individual Alabama residents the projects highlights the states diversity and its unity. Crandall writes of the project “I believe in listening and I believe in creating spaces intimate enough for voices to be heard.” In 52 segments the documentary is a lovely and powerful reminder of how local newsrooms can connect, challenge and creatively engage their communities in difficult and polarizing times.

Tools and Lessons for Building Better Business Models for News

There is an array of creative potential revenue streams for local newsroom, but how do you decide where to invest your limited resources when developing a big new idea? How can you listen to your community, prototype ideas and iterate as you learn? We know there is no one model for local news, and we need to adapt our strategies to the unique skills of our newsrooms and the distinct needs of our communities. The resources below offer some case studies, tool and models to help guide your exploration of new business models for your newsroom.

A Different Discussion About Trust at the Local Level

There has been a lot of debate about trust in media recently, but we wanted to search out some specific data and advice about trust at the local level. Much of the research out there suggests that while trust in “the media” is at an all time low, trust in local news outlets is stronger (though there is still work to do). The links below pull together some research and a lot of good ideas for how local newsrooms can foster more trusting relationships with their communities.

Beating Burnout and Structuring Your Work

This week the Harvard Business Review suggested creating a meeting-free day each week. While it is not for everyone, the notion of trying to structure our work amidst the swirling pace of news and change around us is attractive. Over at Source Tiff Fehr and Alyson Hurt offer a great deep dive into managing your own burnout and building healthy teams for your staff. All of this got us thinking about some other questions: How might conferences be better structured to be rejuvenating and tackle stress? How should foundations support their grantees around burnout? Are the same forces that encourage breakneck work inside newsrooms creating news that is also overwhelming to our communities? We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of this…

Local News Lab Link of the Week

Our new site is full of practical advice, tools and tips. For a few weeks, we’ll highlight some of them here on the Local Fix. This week, we recommend our new guide to Crowdfunding for journalists which includes numerous case studies, advice and a great check list for your next campaign.

Send us your feedback and ideas for other resources that you would find useful on the Lab at localnewslab@democracyfund.org.

Have a good weekend
Josh and Teresa
@jcstearns, @gteresa

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.