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April 5, 2018

Introducing our collaborative spreadsheet for the news community — and a few observations on making it

Illustration by Melinda Szekeres

By Melinda Szekeres

The Democracy Fund team often writes about diversifying sources, sharing resources, and collaborating on projects in The Local Fix. The Fix is a weekly newsletter that delivers a round-up of advice and inspiration for local newsrooms. We’re invested in making meaningful information accessible — ideas and resources that could drive innovation and change. And we’re committed to sharing that information in a way that lives up to the values we highlight.

One small way we’re upholding our values of collaboration and inclusivity: a previous intern, Destiny Wiley-Yancy and I have compiled a spreadsheet of the sites, news organizations, and resources we use to put the Fix together every week. We’re pleased to share version 1.0 with you today. We hope this resource can help you find new ideas, resources, and partners.

The list currently has 76 sites with valuable resources for journalists, and 61 “good ideas” we’ve highlighted in past editions of the Fix. Is something missing? You can submit your own suggestions by filling out this form.

We Not Only Created A Resource, But Also a Tracking Tool

Initially, when Wiley-Yancy began this project in the summer of 2017 — combing through archives to list organizations and sites the Fix referred to over the past year  — she did so to create a guide for our sources. Wiley-Yancy and I both found the project useful to highlight gaps in coverage in the Fix. For example, most of the sources are domestic, with limited geographic diversity. We also noted that community and ethnic media organizations aren’t often represented in our “good ideas” section.

We want to be as intentional as possible about the sources that we use, but if we don’t track what we’re using, we can’t be. Over time, the spreadsheet can systematically uncover gaps and areas of emphasis. As Sabrina Hersi Issa pointed out in her Local News Lab piece, Data Matters: Investing in Infrastructure to Support Diverse Newsrooms, valuing diversity is not enough without actually accounting for it with meaningful measurements. Hersi Issa’s tracking mechanisms, as well as others such as The Atlantic’s Ed Yong’s, are more detailed than that of the Resource List. However, they provide inspiration and ideas for analyzing the Fix’s links and resources in the future.

We will continuously add to our spreadsheet to address coverage gaps and make the Fix more representative of all the great work within journalism. And of course, we hope to hear from you, too. Do you see any other gaps? Let us know via this form.

So Many Resources Exist, but Some Are More Visible Than Others

Since joining the Democracy Fund and taking on this project, I have been bombarded with tips and qualities on what makes a thriving newsroom and a vibrant news ecosystem. I never realized the wealth of information that was available, nor had enough time as a student journalist or newsroom intern to locate what would have been helpful for me.

Through working on this resource, I’ve realized that we as a community need to share more with each other and figure out ways to make our lessons and ideas more accessible. I know I’m excited to bring these resources into my student newsroom next semester, and for others to do the same. This is a reminder, too, that we shouldn’t forget about past case studies and examples that the Fix features.

Many of these case studies have made splashes online but disappeared as soon as people refreshed their Twitter feeds. The issues local newsrooms have been innovating in — be it increasing engagement, new forms of expressing gratitude, or shifting to membership models — don’t have expiration dates.

To help with the fleeting nature of case studies, I added a running list of newsroom examples we’ve previously shared to the spreadsheet. Many readers have previously asked for ways to  easily look back on past Fix editions, so this section of our resource, while not all-encompassing, can be helpful for that, too.

How might you use this spreadsheet and what else would you like to see in the Local Fix? We want to hear your comments. Help us make the Local Fix’s journalism resource list more comprehensive for both ourselves and the field by contributing. Reach out to us with questions, comments, and suggestions at localnewslab@democracyfund.org or @TheLocalNewsLab on Twitter. And finally, of course, subscribe to The Local Fix.

Melinda Szekeres headshotMelinda Szekeres is the Spring 2018 Public Square Program intern at the Democracy Fund. She splits her time helping advance ecosystem news at the Local News Lab and researching developments on combating misinformation.

Melinda is a final-year student at NYU Abu Dhabi, where she studies Social Research and Public Policy with concentrations in Economics and Interactive Media. Prior to joining Democracy Fund, she interned at KMPG Advisory, CBS News’ 60 Minutes, and Robben Island Museum among other organizations. She is a proud Hungarian-American and is interested in technology policy and impact investing.

Follow Melinda on Twitter: @SzekeresMelinda