A project of Democracy Fund

April 20, 2018

Local Fix: Comments, Jobs, Collaboration

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: Community guidelines
VT Digger changed their commenting platform this week. But rather than just flipping a switch, they took the change as an opportunity to revisit and share their community guidelines. The reader response guidelines share what is ok, what’s not, and how to be part of community, with a clearly stated goal to welcome more voices to the conversation. Their posts explaining the software change and what goes along with it are great examples of being open and honest with your audience. If you want to dive deeper into how VTDigger made these choices, check out research and guides from The Coral Project(ht Joy Mayer for the link)

New Owners Won’t Save Local News, But Communities Can

A bold editorial from the Denver Post this month sparked a national debate about newspaper ownership and its impact on local communities and our democracy. “When newsroom owners view profits as the only goal, quality, reliability and accountability suffer. Their very mission is compromised,” wrote the Post. In response, Jim Friedlich, director of The Lenfest Institute, wrote about an innovative philanthropic structure that has been created in Philly to house papers and pursue innovation and sustainability in local news. We added our two cents to the discussion when Josh wrote about the need to connect newsroom activism and new ownership ideas to deep community engagement. From the piece: “When journalists side with their communities over bad owners it is a powerful alliance. But it is not enough to call on communities to subscribe or ‘pay up’ to save local news if news organizations aren’t also willing to listen to and stand with communities.” Read more below.

Collaborating Yet?

Collaboration is an essential element for the future of local news. We like to say that the relationships that develop through collaboration are the ‘glue’ that can help make local news connected, responsive and resilient. Reporting partnerships with newsrooms and communities can make stories go deeper, meet community needs, have greater impact, and yes, sometimes win a Pulitzer. But how does it all come together? Here we’ve compiled a few recent examples of collaboration that share more on that. The Center for Cooperative Media shared a case study of the Pulitzer-winning ‘The Wall’ in January that includes how long it took to plan, how many people were involved (at least 130!), and DIY tips from the participants. Free Press shares how a collaboration between journalists, non-profits, social workers and more came to be. And in Solutions Set, the folks behind 100 Days in Appalachia share lessons from their collaborative pop-up collaboration. Want more on collaborative journalism? Register for the Collaborative Journalism Summit in May.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Occasionally, we like to highlight some of the job listings that get sent our way. From writing newsletters, to running local collaborations, to coaching newsrooms on engagement, there are a lot of interesting openings out there. Are you looking for something new and want us to keep an eye open for you? Let us know. Or do you have a job link to share? Send it our way or tweet us @TheLocalNewsLab. You can also check out other newsletters and sites for more regular job listings, some of which we’ve linked below. (Mandy Hofmockel’s newsletter even includes a dog photo each week — oh snap!) And as Lam Thuy Vo recently said on Twitter – “go for it.” 

Have a good weekend,
Josh, Teresa and 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.