October 5, 2018
Local Fix: Report, Grant, Delete
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: Plant the Seeds of a RelationshipWe saw a story this week that speaks to the slow but critical work of rebuilding trust around journalism. Three years ago community members in Atlantic City, NJ, organized a forum focused on strategies to ensure authentic and diverse local voices were better represented in local media. The event was organized by Free Press, with the idea that communities (not just newsrooms) were key to strengthening local news sustainability and impact. The long slow work of relationships building continued over the next three years, leading up to a workshop last month focused on using “restorative narratives” to tell new kinds of stories about the region. Mike Rispoli, who lives nearby and works with Free Press wrote on Twitter, “My biggest takeaway? Be patient with engagement. We can’t just look at short-term results to determine if engagement is successful. Engagement sometimes is just planting seeds of trust and relationship. It may take time to grow, especially in places where trust in news is low.”
The State of Nonprofit News
There have been nonprofit journalism organizations for a long time. However, the last decade has witnessed a huge growth in this sector as more and more organizations are created to test new models, serve different communities, and fill the gaps of struggling commercial media. Today there are about 200 nonprofit newsrooms in the United States. What do they focus on? How are they holding up? And how are they faring with equitable hiring practices? A new report by the Institute for Nonprofit News offers a deep dive into the state of nonprofit newsrooms around the country. Some insights:
- The report argues that by only devoting an average of 10 percent of newsroom resources to revenue development, there is an “underinvestment by a young field that is working to establish itself, grow and diversify revenue sources.” For more on this topic, read this recent report by the Shorenstein Center, then apply to the Lenfest Institute Business Model Challenge to try different revenue models, or check out online resources from INN on how to cultivate revenue streams.
- Responding nonprofit newsrooms in the INN survey were 55 percent female, but they were also 73 percent white. These numbers fare slightly better than last year’s industry-wide American Society of News Editors diversity survey, which found that newsrooms as a whole were 39.1 percent female and 83.16 percent white, but still point out the need for a stronger emphasis on building newsrooms that look like the communities they serve.
- You can read the full INN survey here or dig into a summary by Nieman Lab.
Grant Opportunities for Local Newsrooms
For local newsrooms interested in expanding their capacity for investigative reporting or strengthening their connection to their communities, there are three new grants available with deadlines coming up soon. ProPublica and Report for America will help pay salaries, as well as offer training and other support for local newsrooms who are interested in doing investigative reporting on critical local issues. The Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF) will help your newsroom cover the costs of great reporting tools like DocumentCloud, MuckRock, Listening Post, and The Coral Project. All of these grants are open to for-profit and nonprofit newsrooms:
- ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network Is Looking for the Best Accountability Projects to Fund in 2019 (they pay the salary and a stipend for benefits to local reporters working on investigative projects with a moral force) – Deadline: October 26
- Become a Report for America Host Newsroom. Report for America pays about half of an entry level salary. The rest is split between the news organizations and local donors. – Deadline: October 31
- The Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF) is opening a third round of applications for newsroom. Funds will be given to newsrooms with the most need who desire to expand their commitment to listening and engagement, cost and subsidy amounts vary by tool. – Deadline: October 31st
Deleting the News
As we produce more and more information on the web, and across a myriad of platforms, how do we ensure that all of that important work is preserved and maintained over time? Data visualizations stop working as web standards change, links get broken, and archives can disappear at the whim of a hosting company or a bitter CEO. What should newsrooms be thinking about now to protect their work and what can journalists do to push back and ensure that content remains on the web? Here are some resources to have on hand and some case studies to consider.
- Here are three tools that help digital journalists save their work in case a site shuts down. – Nieman Lab
- Journalism History, Web Archives, and New Methods for Understanding the Evolution of Digital Journalism – Prof. Matthew S. Weber & Prof. Philip M. Napoli for Digital Journalism.
- The “Dodging the Memory Hole 2017: Saving Online News” conference was dedicated to these questions – Reynolds Journalism Institute
- “If a sprawling Pulitzer Prize-nominated feature in one of the nation’s oldest newspapers can disappear from the web, anything can.” – The Atlantic
- “All it takes is one sufficiently angry rich person to destroy the work of hundreds, and prohibit access to information for millions.” – CJR
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.