A project of Democracy Fund

September 14, 2018

Local Fix: Storms, New Arrivals and Local Tips from ONA


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: Investing in the Business Side 
Jiquanda Johnson’s story is familiar to those of us who have spent time with entrepreneurial journalists across the country. These one and two person operations are providing critical coverage of their communities, while also trying to build new revenue models for local news. A skilled reporter, with deep community roots, Johnson has built an important source for journalism in Flint, Michigan, and is grappling to figure out how to pay the bills. Over at Poynter, Kristen Hare talks with Johnson about how she is trying to invest in the business side of her publication while keeping up with coverage. “If you can hire a business manager, hire one,” Johnson says, and lean on the community of other founders out there through organizations like the Local Independent Online News Publishers group.

Local News Before, During and After Hurricane Florence 

Hurricane Florence is currently hitting the Southeast, and local journalists are hard at work bringing vital information to those that are affected. Local journalism is crucial at the time of natural disasters, but also in the long follow-up and recovery efforts. Accountability reporting and engagement with communities can make a big difference to the well-being of communities, and the lack of it can make future natural disasters even worse. Melanie Sill is gathering ideas for what follow-up looks like via her newsletter NC Local, and others have shared tips for how to cover it in the moment. Below, we’ve compiled links both about recovery and to the local news organizations that are in the midst of coverage now. We wish them and everyone in the storm’s path safety. 

Tracking Local at ONA

We’re in a similar boat to many of you as we follow updates from the Online News Association’s annual conference from afar this week. Luckily, there are some avid tweeters, note-takers and good conference videos so more people can learn from all the examples, ideas, and conversations. We’re (spoiler alert) most interested in anything about local news, and have already seen a few great ideas and examples we want to learn more about. Plus, many folks are sharing how important local news is to building trust with communities and to the future of journalism.  High-fives all around. Here are some of the interesting things we’re spotting so far. Are you at the conference or following online and see something we should know about? Hit reply or tweet us @thelocalnewslab.

  • In “Let’s Talk About What Works With Local,” sponsored by Google, representatives from Google, Report for America, The Tennessean, and Berkleyside shared ideas and examples.
  • Announced yesterday, apply to Lenfest Institute’s Local News Business Model Challenge for funding to support business model experiments by October 15
  • Just before ONA, NewsMatch announced that more than 150 nonprofit newsrooms – many of them local newsrooms – will participate in NewsMatch this year.
  • Check out #ONAAnalytics for tips from The Seattle Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer on using custom analytics hubs to understand audiences 

Make Your Newsroom More Welcoming

Former Nieman Lab writer Shan Wang just moved to D.C. and tweeted “what helpful D.C.-related Twitter accounts should I follow, what FB groups should I join, what area newsletters should I subscribe to?” That got us thinking about how newsrooms could roll out the red carpet for new arrivals in their area and start cultivating relationships with people as soon as they move to the region. Jo Ellen Kaiser and Jason Zaragoza pointed out on Twitter that alternative weeklies have done versions of this, including their back to school guides for college campuses and “best of” editions. Simon Galperin thought there was revenue and partnership opportunities with local real estate agents. Some news organizations don’t stop at the welcome wagon though – many frame their work around providing guides to their cities to locals, including Charlotte Agenda and Whereby.us. Co-founder Rebekah Monson has written about why Whereby.us’ thinks “journalism is community as a service” tied to this model.

Have a good weekend,
Josh, Teresa, and Gabe
@jcstearns, @gteresa, @gabemschneider

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.