September 7, 2018
Local Fix: Collaboration, Polarization, and Community. Also Twitter.
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: Creating Collaborations That Strengthen Local Investigative ReportingBureau Local, a project of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the UK, began by creating a centralized data journalism team designed to partner with other newsrooms. In less than two years, they have built this into a collaborative infrastructure that has supported “750 journalists, technologists, community-minded citizens and specialist contributors to work together to tell important local and national stories.” Together they have published 185 stories, all featuring an open public reporting process. Now they are helping German publisher Corrictiv replicate this model. In the U.S., the local reporting projects from the Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica share a similar DNA, but we’d still love to see more people build on the Bureau Local work and contribute to a shared media infrastructure.
Bridging Political Divides Through Journalism and Social Media
A study out this week complicates the notion of filter bubbles and polarization on social media platforms. Last month Jack Dorsey said Twitter was experimenting with features to promote “alternative viewpoints” in people’s timelines, but new research suggests that tactic might backfire. According to the research, bursting people’s filter bubbles online can actually lead to increased polarization and tribalism. However, local newsrooms have more tools at their disposals than social media platforms and some recent experiments suggest ways that journalism can bridge political divides in meaningful ways. We’ve written before about dialogue journalism projects like Spaceship Media. Some of the projects below build on that model, while others take a different direction. Together these examples explore how news and information can build bridges and common ground across differences, but there is more work to do in this space.
- Republicans Who Follow Liberal Twitter Bots Actually Become More Conservative: “Instead of reducing political polarization, our intervention increased it.” – NiemanLab
- In Germany, A News Site Is Pairing Up Liberals And Conservatives And Actually Getting Them To (Gasp) Have A Civil Conversation – NiemanLab
- A New Journalism Startup Is Tackling Polarization In The Us – Alex Eggerking
- Explanatory Journalism: A Tool In The War Against Polarization And Dysfunction – Brookings Institute
- Polarization in the News Media Globally – Reuters Institute Digital News Report
The Role of ‘Non-traditional’ Information Sources
In 2011, the Pew Research Center published a fascinating report which found that, after local TV, the most popular source of local news was word of mouth. A year later a study in Chicago found that non-traditional news providers were critical and meaningful sources of local news. It’s common knowledge today that newsrooms don’t have a monopoly on local news, but how much do we really understand about the flow of information across old and new networks — from church newsletters to local Facebook groups, from PTO listservs to local influencers? Although the idea of news ecosystems has gained traction, too often the boundaries of those ecosystems exclude important ways that people get information about their neighborhood on and offline. How might we better account for the alternative and informal networks people rely on for different kinds of information and see them as partners in building more informed and engaged communities?
- You Should Really Join Your Town’s Local Facebook Group – The Outline
- Teens Are Debating The News On Instagram: More Teenagers Are Getting Their Information From So-called Flop Accounts – The Atlantic
- Most Reddit Users Rely On The Site As A News Source – PBS NewsHour
- Non-traditional Providers Bring Quality And Dimension To Community News – Knight Foundation
- The second most widely followed source of local news isn’t the newspaper, radio or the Internet. It’s word of mouth – Washington Post
- Más Información: An Information Needs Assessment Of Latino Immigrants In Oakland, California Provides A Snapshot Of How Information Moves Through A Community – InterNews
Must Reads for News Nerds
A number of important and useful reports were released this week with specific, actionable ideas and guidance for newsrooms. The research covers revenue, collaboration, community engagement and press freedom — all topics we cover regularly at the Local Fix. Below we’ve pulled out 1-2 key ideas from each and link to the whole report.
- Newsrooms should employ compelling imagery and a well planned ladder of engagement to convert readers to subscribers. Read more about strategy for subscription messaging from the Center for Media Engagement.
- “When newsrooms start valuing their relationships with the communities they serve over the quantity of content they can produce, it shapes journalism for the better. And that focus on relationships is helping newsrooms have an impact and develop new opportunities for revenue and sustainability.” Read about real world examples from the American Press Institute’s new report on creating a culture of listening in journalism.
- Collaboration between newsrooms depends on trusting relationships, open communications and a clear chain of command. Read about these and five other lessons from the Center for Cooperative Media’s work funding and supporting collaborative journalism around the country.
- American voters overwhelmingly support press freedom but are missing signs it’s under threat. New research from Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press provides unique and tested messaging for how to make the case for press freedom and the fourth estate.
- When it comes to business model innovation in news, the field needs growth capital for start-ups, increased philanthropic investment, improved collaboration, and a greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Read more in a new Field Scan of Business Models from the Lenfest Institute and the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.
P.S. Last week we said goodbye to our summer intern Rachel Wegner. We’ll miss you Rachel! (Follow her work over @rachelannwegner). This week we’re thrilled to welcome Gabe Schneider to the Local Fix and Democracy Fund Public Square team. Get ready to see Gabe’s name and work featured here and on localnewslab.org. Go say hi to him over @gabemschneider. Welcome Gabe!
Have a good weekend,
Josh, Teresa, and Gabe
@jcstearns, @gteresa, @gabemschneiderThe 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.