A project of Democracy Fund

December 14, 2018

Local Fix: Freelance Rates, Humanizing Narratives, and Building in Metrics


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: Reaching People With PostcardsThe Media Seeds Project used a creative approach to get news into news deserts across Southeast Ohio: Postcards. In a detailed blog post, Michelle Ferrier describes how Media Seeds used the U.S. Postal Service Every Door Direct Mail program to blanket a region with neighborhood news postcards. In the age of Facebook targeted ads, the Postal Service offers its own ability to target delivery, which can help newsrooms reach people who might live in news deserts or be outside their core readership. The Postal Service allows you to target specific postal routes and customize via a range of demographic data. (We’ve written before about the power of postcards, check out the additional links here). 

Freelancers Share Their Pay

Freelancing can be precarious: navigating the healthcare system, figuring out rates, negotiating contracts, and learning how to pitch all contribute to an opaque career pathway. That’s why this week, members of freelance media collective Study Hall have been posting their freelance pay rates on Twitter in the hope that it will draw attention to what it takes to survive paycheck-to-paycheck. We know that freelancers play a critical role in local news, providing important coverage and connecting outlets across a region. The links below are useful for freelancers and the newsrooms who work with them. (Also, be sure to check out our earlier round-up of freelance resources from 2017). 

Defining the Narrative of Migration in the U.S.

When media echoes and amplifies political rhetoric designed to amplify fear and hatred, it risks dehumanizing people through its coverage. For example the Associated Press, recently repeated president Trump’s description of asylum seekers as “a ragtag army of the poor.” The AP eventually apologized, but these choices shape public sentiment, public policy and public perceptions of critical issues. Rather than parrot hateful language, newsrooms can carefully challenge it by contextualizing their reporting on migrants and asylum seekers. We should seek to help people understand the complex issues behind this story, which can only happen if we help people understand each other. Too often we see those in power having their words amplified, while the voices of people at the center of the story are missing. Here are a few examples of best practices, as well as tools that may be useful in the process of conveying stories to, and about, migration.

Metrics Metrics Metrics

As you do your planning for the year ahead, don’t forget to add in how you’ll measure, how you’ll learn, and how you’ll adjust in the face of shifting trends and feedback. If not conceived well, metrics can lead newsrooms, foundations, and others down a path that doesn’t serve their communities. Alternatively, they can be used wisely to listen, learn, change, and make work more impactful. There are no silver bullet metrics that everyone working in news should use, but considering your newsroom’s goals, impact, and needs is important. Perhaps you’ll discover that you need to rethink how you measure success, and build metrics to fit that. But you have to do some of the thinking upfront. (One opportunity to get on the metrics train is to check out American Press Institute’s Metrics for News program – they’re providing subsidies for newsrooms next year – apply by January 18). For more thoughts on metrics, get started with these links:

P.S. This is our intern Gabe’s last week writing for the Local Fix. We’re thankful for everything he contributed to the team this semester! Go check his work out on Twitter @gabemschneider.

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.