A project of Democracy Fund

March 9, 2018

Local Fix: Speed Dating, North Carolina, and Canada

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: Speed Dating for Deeper Understanding
Public radio station KUOW in Seattle has been using a speed dating model to facilitate “civil dialogue between people who rarely have opportunities to talk one-on-one.” For the station, the effort is an attempt to address polarization and build bridges across communities. After two years of developing and testing the model they published a toolkit for others to replicate their approach. This fits into a growing trend of local newsrooms leveraging the power of journalism to foster important conversations. If you are helping facilitate critical conversations in your community, send us a note to tell us what you’re up to.

Women Are Doing it For Themselves

Last year, Local Fix readers shared women working in local news they admired. Yesterday, in honor of International Women’s Day, we re-shared the list on Twitter and asked people to share more names. Joe Amditis of The Center for Cooperative Media shared a long list of women killing it in the New Jersey media scene, and others piped in with even more names. It’s great to give honor when we can, but it’s also important to note who is missing from newsrooms. The Women’s Media Center report, “The Status of Women of Color in the U.S. News Media 2018,” shared unacceptable statistics this week: “Women of color represent just 7.95 percent of U.S. print newsroom staff, 12.6 percent of local TV news staff, and 6.2 percent of local radio staff.” While we celebrate those we admire, lets remember we still need to support women, especially women of color, to get in, stay in, and lead in this industry.

New Attention to the Role of Government in Supporting Media

Last month was a tale of two budgets. In Ottawa, the federal budget committed $50 million over five years to support local journalism. Meanwhile, in Washington, President Trump’s proposed budget sought to end federal funding for public broadcasting. Two other models out of New Jersey add some new contours to the debate. When New Jersey sold its public broadcasting spectrum back to the U.S. government they received $330 million. A new bill in New Jersey would set aside $20 million of that for a consortium of universities which would invest in projects to strengthen local news, open government data, and better connect underserved communities. Separately, the Info Districts project is trying to create citizen-driven methods to pool public tax dollars that will help pay for local journalism through special services districts, which are currently used for libraries, fire departments and more. These New Jersey examples create mechanisms to empower citizens while protecting reporting from political influence. Relevant to all of these debates is a 2011 study on how other international democracies build firewalls between government and publicly funded media and journalism. 

Apply to the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund

Last week, we announced a call for proposals for the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund alongside local funders. Projects and organizations that focus on sustainability, collaboration, community engagement, or innovation are encouraged to apply.  If you’re in the state, apply by March 30, and come to our online office hour with questions on Wednesday March 14. If you’re not in NC, stay tuned for takeaways from the work, and be sure to share the call with anyone you know who might be interested. In honor of the fund launch, we thought we’d highlight examples of interesting work happening in the state. These are just a few examples of the work we’ve seen, with many more examples and learnings to come: 

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD: Apply to the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund http://bit.ly/NCFUND

Have a good weekend,
Josh and Teresa, with editing help by 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.