March 2, 2018
Local Fix: Covering Poverty, Rethinking Personalization, Creative Fact-Checking
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: Write a letter to your audience
At Poynter, Melanie Sill imagines what it would look like if instead of writing yet another award letter to juries at prestigious industry prizes, newsrooms wrote to our communities about the value and impact of the work they do. How would we talk about the journalism if our judges were not our peers, but our readers? Read her version of “the contest letter we should all be writing” and perhaps you might try one for yourself.
Journalism and Poverty
At the Local Fix we write a lot about reader revenue and new business models. This week a tweet from Heather Bryant caught our attention. On Twitter she wrote:“If journalism spent as much time and energy reporting on poverty, living wages and income inequality as it does researching how to get people to pay for journalism, it might actually improve the world in such a way that people can more easily afford to pay for journalism.” Heather is right, we need to dedicate more attention to this issue as an industry. According to Nieman Reports, in 2012 16 percent of Americans were living in poverty (49.7 million people at the time) but only 0.2 percent of 50 major news outlets’ coverage focused primarily on poverty between 2007 and 2012. In the links below, read more about the complexities of reporting on poverty from the perspective of journalists and community health workers, find out how a newsroom is engaging low-income communities and covering issues not just ‘for’ them but also ‘with’ them, and read about how information inequality follows income inequality.
- The Challenge of Writing About Poverty – From the perspective of a community health advocate – Vibrant Canada
- Outlier Media uses text messages to connect low-income news consumers to useful, personalized news and data – NiemanLab
- Reporting Poverty: Katherine Boo on ethical considerations of covering poverty – Guernica Magazine
- The rich/poor divide extends to local news: Wealthy communities have better access to high-quality local news than poor communities do, report finds. – NiemanLab
- What’s One Way to Fight Inequality? Fund Local Journalism. – Institute for Policy Studies
We often have monolithic notions of what fact-checking looks like. But this is increasingly not true — the global growth of fact-checking has fueled creative new approaches in finding, confirming, and sharing facts. Below are a few U.S. and international examples that show how to how to make fact-checking more effective and powerful by engaging audiences in new ways.
- How one organization used public events and board games to expand fact checking. – GIJN
- Fact-checking triples over four years: The annual fact-checking census from the Reporters’ Lab finds 31 percent growth in the past year alone – Reporters’ Lab
- How the only dedicate fact-checker in Nevada uses fact-checks to strengthen local news. – Poynter
- From breweries to GOP meetings, how PolitiFact is reaching out to conservative America – Poynter
Personalization and Polarization
In an important piece in Nieman Reports earlier this year Adrienne LaFrance argued that “news personalization could help publishers attract and retain audiences—in the process making political polarization even worse.” There are many different platforms and approaches for personalizing content, but most of our attention has focused on algorithms which allow personalization at scale. Offline models of community engagement and new creative approaches to reporting can also personalize journalism in grassroots ways. Consider, for example, how the Center for Investigative Reporting has used plays and art. What if we trained our newsrooms, and not just our algorithms, to know our communities better?
- With in-article chat bots, BBC is experimenting with new ways to introduce readers to complex topics – NiemanLab
- The Secret Sauce Behind NPR One: An Editorially Responsible Algorithm – NPR
- Return on attention: Neva Labs aims to burst filter bubbles through personalization – Journalism.co.uk
- What The Guardian has learned trying to build a more intelligent story format — one that knows what you know – NiemanLab
Have a good weekend,
Josh and Teresa, with editing help this week from Melinda
@jcstearns, @gteresa, @SzekeresMelinda
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.