A project of Democracy Fund

February 8, 2019

Local Fix: Winning Subscribers, Kickass Ladies, Lessons from Museums


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: Don’t Sleep on These Deadlines

Right now there are a few great opportunities for local journalists to get funding, hone their craft, or embark on a new experiment – but the deadlines are coming up quick. The Abrams Nieman Fellowship for Local Investigative Journalism (deadline: Feb 18) funds up to nine months of fieldwork in your home community and two semesters at Harvard for “deeply reported local and regional news stories in underserved communities.” The Membership Puzzle Project is looking for newsrooms who want to be part of their next Join the Beat project which builds collaboration and community around specific beats. The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism (deadline: April 10) provides $10,000 to eight fellows for reporting that aims to enhance public understanding of mental health and substance use.

How Great Journalism Wins Subscribers

Research released this week by Northwestern University’s Local News Initiative found that “Subscribers who read many stories per visit and read them thoroughly were no more likely to keep their subscriptions than those who skimmed.” The study, which is based on 13 terabytes of anonymous reader and subscriber data from local newspapers, suggests that serving audiences well with in-depth reporting that builds a news habit is key to building a strong subscriber base. That idea was echoed by Seattle Times reporter Mike Rosenberg, who tweeted over the weekend about how the newspaper has changed course from focusing on clicks to focusing on stories that drive subscriptions. “Sometimes an important story that doesn’t get a ton of clicks still drives subscriptions because the people who did read it value it. This helps inform what types of stories we cover. Watchdog stories and enterprise pieces you can’t find anywhere else are big subscription drivers,” Rosenberg tweeted. To understand all of this, we suggest going back to research published by the American Press Institute last year on the three kinds of subscribers and the paths they take to subscribe.  

Lessons from Museums

In the ever-evolving quest to find new ways to diversify audiences, local and national media organizations can find many examples in museums around the world. To combat perceptions of being exclusive, expensive, predominantly white spaces (sound familiar?), some museums are changing their image by changing their practices. There are tons of examples, and they teach us that many of the best solutions to big problems are simpler than we might think. Several museums have tried things like spotlighting more exhibitors of color, adjusting admission fees, and establishing curatorial fellowships. The Philadelphia Museum of Arts uses a “team tryout” approach to attract new members by hosting Q&A events and ice cream socials. Atlanta’s High Museum now promotes their established exhibitions more regularly than new or visiting ones. The Studio Museum in Harlem has a hiring practice of training their mostly black curators for years then sending them to different institutions across the country. Check out the links below for even more inspiration, and next time you’re at a museum, take a look to see if you can find any more examples. (And if you’re in LA, you can learn from one museum who has been taking this on, the Hammer Museum, at an ONA Local Event on Feb. 15)

Kickass Ladies

Women make up around 32 percent of newsrooms, according to a Women’s Media Center 2017 report. The percentage of women in leadership is much lower. And the percentage of women of color in journalism and leadership is even worse. While the stats are disheartening, we do think it’s worth celebrating those women who are making change now. That’s why we’re highlighting several cohorts of women leaders who were recently announced. Fifty women leaders took part in the first journalism class of the Take the Lead program this week, and the most recent classes of the Poynter Leadership Academy for Women, and ONA’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator were announced in the last few weeks. Check out these awesome ladies and follow their work. Do you know an outstanding woman journalist who deserves recognition? Consider nominating her for the Courage in Journalism prize – nominations are due March 15.


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.