A project of Democracy Fund

February 1, 2019

Local Fix: Data, Documenters, Denver, Design


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: Keeping Reno Rad

Citizens of Reno, Nevada are working with local college students and faculty to report on their city’s changing demographics in the midst of a housing crisis and rebranding wave. The project, called Our Town Reno, uses storytelling to answer the question, “as Reno rebrands, what happens to our most vulnerable?” It’s achieved through photo series, videos and a digital citizens’ forum that lets Renoans share their opinions and stories about homelessness. Our Town Reno comes out of the University of Nevada’s Reynolds Media Lab and has more than 4,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram, where students share their photos from the field daily. 

Document Public Meetings

In December, we asked what you’d like to see more of in the Local Fix. One suggestion was to include guest writers. This week, we have one of our first featured sections, written by Darryl Holliday from City Bureau. Below we’ve also included a few links for you to learn more about the Chicago-based org. (Full disclosure: City Bureau is a grantee of Democracy Fund)

“Local government bodies hold thousands of public meetings every day—but the vast majority receive no media coverage and produce minimal records. What happens in those meetings are tomorrow’s headlines but, more importantly, they’re a foundation for civic action. So how does the public know when meetings are happening? It isn’t easy. These events are spread across dozens of websites, rarely in useful data formats. As a result, these important spaces for democracy too often go unchecked. This month, City Bureau presented one solution: Documenters.org is now standardizing and sharing information on local public governance meetings, including locations, dates, times and thousands of official records. The web app also allows members of the public in Chicago and Detroit to sign up for trainings and get paid to create live-tweet threads, meeting notes and multimedia for the public good. If you’re interested in replicating our system, we have a webinar on Feb. 7 to learn more.”

Hey, Some Good News

In the wake of so much bad news about layoffs at news outlets around the country, we wanted to feature several bright spots that have been announced this week. In Colorado, funders led by The Gates Family Foundation, including Democracy Fund, announced a commitment to strengthen local news through the Colorado Media Project. Canadian Journalism Innovators, a collaboration of media outlets focused on tackling the biggest challenges facing journalists, launched. Report for America is hiring new corps members. The Lenfest Institute announced support for an exciting group of local news sustainability projects. And that’s just a few of the things we spotted. What did we miss? Send your good news our way.

See Stories in New Ways

We’ve featured sections in the Local Fix before about how to do data visualizations and graphics. This week, we wanted to share a few articles that offer concrete advice, but also raise important questions about the impact of decisions we make when we tell stories visually. Graphics and visualizations are more than pretty pictures in our stories – they express values and reflect choices – so it’s important to understand how they help (or hinder) the way readers make meaning. 

Have a good weekend,

Josh, Teresa and Maya 
@jcstearns@gteresa@mayaaliah

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.