A project of Democracy Fund

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. 

Fact-Check This

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.

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? 

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.