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February 22, 2019

Local Fix: Fundraising, Health Bills, and Good News


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: The Rivalry Edition
In the weeks leading up to basketball season’s first rivalry game between Duke and UNC Chapel Hill, student journalists at both universities took advantage of the competition in a unique way – through fundraising. From Feb. 1 to Feb. 20, The Daily Tarheel and The Chronicle competed to see who could raise the most money, and collaborated on a special joint rivalry edition. The outcome? The papers raised nearly $30,000 and $25,000, respectively. It’s a successful example of collaboration among non-profit newspapers and a fun fundraising idea. (Hat tip to Melanie Sill and the email newsletter NC Local for letting us know about this one.)   

Don’t Trust the Process

We’ve shared tips for finding foundation funding and working with foundations before many times in the Local Fix. The truth is conversations and posts about that can feel like we’re ‘teaching the test.’ Instead of just making nonprofits figure out how to work with philanthropy, funders should take a look at how they fund. This week, News Integrity Initiative (and Local News Lab co-founder) Molly de Aguiar and Dot Connector Studio’s Jessica Clark shared ideas and takeaways on how media funders can do just that in an open letter. It is full of important points, and aligns with resources on ‘trust-based philanthropy’ from The Whitman Institute and feedback the Center for Effective Philanthropy has shared with foundations in the past. Their suggestions? Increase transparency. Streamline applications and reporting. Provide multi-year unrestricted support. Don’t just give to the usual suspects over and over. We certainly can’t say we’ve figured it out, but actually talking about it, like de Aguiar and Clark point out, is the first step.

Covering Healthcare

There have been many stories in national outlets about wildly high healthcare bills, but the data and information on the bills themselves can be tough to find. Now, Vox is making it a little easier by sharing the ER billing database Sarah Kliff has built over the past year with local reporters. Kliff has almost 2,000 bills in the database, and has also shared tips on how to start covering high costs with the Center for Health Journalism. We’ve also gathered resources from other national outlets like Kaiser Health News, NPR, and ProPublica that local news organizations can take advantage of. Dive in and let us know if we missed anything. 

Funding for Local News

Could we really end the Fix without shouting out some of the good news about funding for local news this week? I don’t think so. Two stories in particular were big on our radar – Knight Foundation’s pledge of $300 million for journalism, and that NewsMatch helped nonprofit newsrooms raise over $7.6 million last year. (Disclosure – Democracy Fund is a funder of NewsMatch.) Both items show that people do care about the future of local news. Now is the time to listen to communities and build trust and support so that local news can truly serve, inform, and empower people in the future. You can utilize some of the resources Knight Foundation has shared, plus a list of studies that prove how important local news is from the Local News Lab, to take advantage of this moment and make that point in your own communities, too.

Have a good weekend,

Josh, Teresa and Maya, with editing help this week from Lea
@jcstearns, @gteresa, @mayaaliahLea Trusty

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.