A project of Democracy Fund

November 16, 2018

Local Fix: Strangers, Find a Reporter, Surveys, and Fundraising


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: Use Shoeleather to Find Local Reporters

This week Sarah Baird launched Shoeleather. It is a database of local journalists with expertise in their regions. The database is one attempt to help newsrooms find and support great local talent and combat parachute journalism. The site launched with more than 300 freelancers from outside the big national media hubs. If you like the sound of that, check out the project, add your name, or get in touch with the reporters on it. It joins a few other databases that combat different narratives of ‘not being able to find’ talent. If you look at these lists we see the talent exists – people just need to do the work to actually look.  Examples include diversify.journalismwith.me which has been running since 2011, AIR’s talent directory of freelance producers, Sound Girls’ new database of women working in audio production, the Writers of Color site, and many more. Did we miss a great directory? Send it our way.

Strangers and Neighbors

This week the Center for Media Engagement released a report focused on newsroom efforts aimed at “making strangers less strange” which examines how newsrooms can bridge divides and foster difficult conversations across difference. The report includes examples of projects that aim to build tolerance across 25 very different newsrooms. At a moment where media and technology are too often being leveraged to amplify hate and extremism, pushing people further apart, we think this research is important. Alongside the Center for Media Engagement report we also wanted to share a lovely reflection on the practice of “neighboring” from two artists in Minnesota. They write, “As neighbors, we engage a reciprocity loop, an exchange, a relationship, a mutually beneficial experiment in being present to one another. There is an intentionality and responsibility in the role of neighbor that requires maintenance, care, compassion, and ‘lookaftering’. It’s something we’re always practicing at; it’s a process, a project, and a path.” At the heart of both of these ideas is the work of building authentic and trusting relationships, which is increasingly the work of newsrooms and journalists. 

Survey Says

Surveys are one way to get feedback and learn more about different communities and readers. That’s why we’re asking you to take our Local Fix survey – please share your thoughts here. (Thanks!) While putting together a Google or Survey Monkey form can be quick, take a minute to look at these resources on how to put a survey together. Dr. Jessica Mahone, a Research Associate at Democracy Fund, said that question wording is one of the things people get wrong. “It’s not just whatever questions you can come up with. There’s a lot to consider besides that,” Mahone said. “…asking questions in a way respondents will understand is honestly the most important thing.” (For examples of bad survey questions and for a chuckle see @BadSurveyQ.) Use the Pew Research Center video below to help with crafting questions. An even better way to create a great survey that you can actually use is to collaborate with an expert at a university or research organization. For example, Trusting News, the Center for Media Engagement, and News Co/Lab all pair newsrooms and researchers to use surveys to learn more about their communities.

Supported by Communities

We have people-power on the mind this week as we follow the People-Powered Publishing Conference from afar. One aspect of people-power that came up a lot this week is relying on the community to support journalism. It isn’t a new idea, but it is one that continues to see different iterations – from membership models to pay-as-you-can to volunteering your time. In the past month alone, people-powered programs have launched at The Correspondent, Quartz, and others, and NewsMatch kicked off a third year of doubling individual donations to nonprofit news organizations. But a membership model isn’t for everyone – and it’s not the only way to get the community to support your work. Get inspired by organizations like The Laundry Project, research from Melody Kramer, and some solid tips from the European Journalism Center. 

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

P.S. We’ll be off next week. Happy Thanksgiving!

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.