A project of Democracy Fund

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.

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?

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.

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.