A project of Democracy Fund

August 24, 2018

Local Fix: Goats, Trust, Indie Bookstores, Summer Recs


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: Goats are the GOAT

A few months back, we watched with bated breath as a raccoon scaled a 25-story building in St. Paul, Minnesota — and lit up headlines around the nation. Lately there seems to be a run of news on a different kind of furry friends: goats. Earlier this month, a friendly herd of 118 goats went on a grazing rampage through the neighborhoods of Boise, Idaho. Eventually the Washington Post picked up the story and made the goats a national sensation. More recently, we’ve seen stories of goats being rescued from train tracksgrazing the greenery at Chicago O’Hare and helping locals do yoga in Green Bay. Perhaps our hoofed friends serve as a reminder, once again, that sometimes our readers appreciate it when we can all take a break and laugh a little in the midst of more serious news.

Trust In Local News Is On The Upswing

Around three out of four people have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in their local newspapers and TV stations, regardless of political affiliations, according to a Poynter Media Trust Survey released this week. A summary of the report from Poynter shows that trust in the news is up from last year, despite decades of decline and ongoing attacks against the credibility of the press. Trust in national news also showed marked increases, with 55 percent trust in national network news and 59 percent trust in national newspapers. Trusting News Project director Joy Mayer said that contrast underscores the difference between how local and national news are perceived. “It’s up to each media outlet to understand our critics enough to anticipate complaints and causes of distrust and do something about it,” she said. Want to dive deeper into studies on trust and the media? We’ve got you covered.

Learning from Independent Bookstores

In Washington, DC where some of us are based we are lucky to benefit from a plethora of independent bookstores, each with their own unique personality and specialty. We’ve seen first-hand the many ways indie bookstores have thrived despite facing many of the same problems that trouble the news industry, including major technological disruption and massive competition from platforms and chains. We’re not the first to say it, but there’s a lot for local news to learn from here. Harvard Business School professor Ryan Raffaelli studied how these bookstores and others have managed to grow, and says the three central mechanisms that have led to their success are “community,” “curation,” and “convening.” Booksellers used their values and strengths to figure out what they needed to hold on to — and what they had to let go of — to succeed. This included innovations in community building and revenue experimentation. Click through the links below for more inspiration and ideas from these indie spots.

Completely Non-Journalism Related Recommendations

Here it is, our regular reminder to take a vacation. Last July, we shared some useful articles about why time off is important, and just a few weeks ago we wrote about the importance of self-care. So, instead of saying the same thing over again, we thought we’d share a few behind-the-scenes looks at what some of the Local Fix team and our coworkers have been doing to wind down lately. Have any recommendations to share with the Local Fix community? Reply to this email or tweet to @thelocalnewslab. We may share them in future newsletters.

  • Read a book: Teresa recommends Louise Penny’s Armand Gamanche mystery novels for a series that’s good for the beach, and also has a lot of heart.
  • Go to the movies: Lea Trusty, who manages the new Engaged Journalism Lab, says to hurry up and go see Crazy Rich Asians already.
  • Treat yourself: Estizer Smith, who runs Democracy Fund’s press freedom work, has been stocking up on Trader Joe’s Mini Mango Mochi this summer.
  • Buy some bubbles: Jessica Mahone, Democracy Fund Research Associate, says that spending a few bucks on a pack of bubbles and sharing with coworkers is a big hit.
  • Listen to some tunes: Rachel Wegner, our trusty Local Fix co-writer, plugs The Lone Bellow as a band to add to your summer playlist. 

Have a good weekend,
Josh, Teresa and Rachel
@jcstearns, @gteresa, @rachelannwegner

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.