A project of Democracy Fund

February 15, 2019

Local Fix: Student Journalists, Travel Funding, Mentorship

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: Mentorship Pays Off
Minnesotans will soon benefit from Sahan Journal, a relaunched news organization focused on the large immigrant community in the state. Reporter Mukhtar Ibrahim, who was Minnesota Public Radio’s first Somali-American reporter, started the site in 2013 and will be relaunching it as a nonprofit news organization this spring. One thing that really jumped out in an article about the project in Current was how important mentorship was to Ibrahim early in his career, eventually leading to this organization. MPR reporter Laura Yuen’s reporting inspired Ibrahim to be a journalist, and she became a mentor when he joined MPR. Now, Yuen is on the board of directors of Sahan Journal. It’s an important reminder of how investing in both mentors and mentees can help lead to more diverse newsrooms, stories, and organizations. 

Travel Funds

The Center for Cooperative Media announced a new fund to support peer learning and collaboration this week. (FYI: supported by Democracy Fund). The fund will give grants of $500 or $1,000 to those who want to travel and meet peers across the country and learn from what they do. It’s exciting to see more of these opportunities, especially as budgets for professional development and learning continue to get smaller across the industry. Learning from others in person and building relationships with peers can make all of us stronger. Take advantage of the new PLAC Fund, and a few other travel-type opportunities here:

Shining a Spotlight on Student Journalists

This week The Trace and the Miami Herald published a remarkable project called Since Parkland. The news organizations worked with more than 200 student reporters from across the country to tell the story of every child, ages zero to 18, killed in shootings during the 12 months since the Parkland shooting. That’s 1200 stories. The interactive website they have created is a powerful testament to the impact of gun violence on young people, but also a profound example of how bringing youth voices into our coverage can change the stories we tell and how we tell them. This week the Columbia Journalism Review published a piece titled “Student journalists hold power to account, with fewer protections,” which also highlighted the important contributions of student journalists, while noting the mounting risks they face. Finally, Abby Kiesa and DC Vito of the 22×20 campaign wrote recently about how “centering the voices of youth at this intersection [of media literacy and civic engagement] positions young people as civic actors, while centering media literacy as a critical civic skill. Young people deserve to be treated as agents of change in our communities — and our democracy needs them.”

Talking About the Future of Local News 

In January, during a week full of news about layoffs and hot takes on the future of journalism, I (Teresa) shared one takeaway on Twitter: “One thing all the commentary around the journalism layoffs last week makes clear: those of us working on the ‘future of local news’ need to be better at sharing our work, lessons, and advice with others that aren’t already in our bubble.” It can be frustrating to read so many pieces bemoaning the failure of local news, and seeing amazing people and organizations who are on the front lines in local communities ignored or unacknowledged. Too often we see the same people and same organizations held up as models and spokespeople.  But we know it’s hard to keep up and to know about it all, too. Hopefully the Local Fix is one way to lift up different voices and stories about the people building the future of local news. But I’d be interested in your ideas of other ways to get the word out and share what’s working and what’s not. My journey into these meta conversations about media was through unique online communities and conversations, including the Carnival of Journalism and WJCHAT. Pre-Twitter, in the early 2000s, the Carnival of Journalism was an email list with a topic a month that anyone could write a blog post about. A few years later, the Twitter chat #WJChat brought together people all over the country to talk about  “web journalism.” While those venues still shared the problem of being somewhat insular, they had the conversations out in the open and could be shared far and wide. Anyone could join, and good ideas bubbled up from unexpected places. What do you think? How can we better share great local news work and examples?

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.