A project of Democracy Fund

March 23, 2018

Local Fix: A Rural Journalism Lab, An Entrepreneurial Spirit, A Model for Impact

by Josh Stearns and Teresa Gorman

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: Pick a Pitch
How do you ask your community for support? Public broadcasting has decades of experience and research that shapes how they pitch their membership programs to the public. The Membership Puzzle Project has released a new report that draws out lessons from public broadcasting that other newsrooms can use, and includes a database of 50 public radio stations’ membership pitches.

Rural Journalism Lab

Where does innovation in journalism happen? Too often the discussion about people who are building the future of journalism focuses on big newsrooms in coastal cities. However, in local newsrooms, journalism schools, libraries and civic organizations across America, people are testing new ideas for how to inform and engage communities. Sam Ford and Andrea Wenzel have spent the last year, listening, building relationships, and developing an exciting model for a “rural journalism lab” in Kentucky, which they wrote about for the Columbia Journalism Review. From Ohio to Oklahoma and New Mexico to North Carolina, journalists in rural communities are defining new kinds of resilience and storytelling that should be lifted up and shared.

Measure, Measure, Measure

Damon Kiesow recently wrote about rethinking Who, What, Why, Where, When (and How) of news products and audience centered reporting. He ended with a very relevant question “How are you measuring impact?” There is increasing emphasis on understanding how the work you are doing is working, and the impact it has on your community. But measuring the impact of journalism is a tricky task. Below are a few concrete examples of how newsrooms are thinking about tracking their impact and how that work can help them strengthen their reporting and serve their communities better.

Start Your Own Thing

In an article in Curbed this week, Patrick Sisson wrote “there are signs that local journalism may be entering a new, less centralized, and increasingly entrepreneurial era.”  The article outlines some examples of how news businesses are started, from Chicago’s civic journalism lab City Bureau to Whereby.us’s expansion to more cities across the country. We are glad to see local journalists pioneering new ideas, business skills, and defining a new entrepreneurial spirit that is rooted in service to communities. Intrigued and thinking about starting your own thing? Read some of the links below, and consider registering for this event in New Jersey April 6: Reader Revenue: Building a business with your audience at Center for Cooperative Media.

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.