A project of Democracy Fund

March 22, 2019

Local Fix: FOIA Madness, Intern Opening, Collaboration


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: (FOIA) March Madness!
Forget basketball. How about some FOIAs? MuckRock has put a wonderfully nerdy spin on March Madness with a FOIA Bracket. Instead of guessing winning basketball teams, however, participants try to guess which Freedom of Information offices out of a list of 64 will respond the quickest to the same FOIA request. In the end FOIA March Madness will help bring important documents to light, provide a new wealth of knowledge on FOIA requests, and the winners also receive lots of MuckRock swag. It’s a great way to bring awareness to a process that can be tough to understand. 

Collaborations that Boost Business

We were happy to see local news collaborations featured in the Idea Newsletter from Atlantic Media this week. One point they made jumped out to us – it stated that many collaborations haven’t been  “modeled around revenue diversification and sustainability.” While that is true, there are still many examples of how local news outlets have paired up in unique ways to strengthen and diversify their business models. These often fly under the radar and don’t get as much recognition since they take place behind-the-scenes. Heather Bryant put it well on Twitter when she said “They deserve recognition for not only collaborating but the creative ways they are thinking about what it looks like to support each other.”  Here are a few examples of these creative support structures. Have another example to add? Hit reply and send it our way.

Cover Letter Tips

We’re hiring for our paid summer intern. As we look at applications, we thought we’d share some tips for one tough component: the cover letter. While we suggest the hiring managers in the room check out companies that have stopped using cover letters, the truth is they’re still a reality in many places. In light of that, here are a few pointers:

  1. Copy edit. This is the most important tip. Have someone else read your letter. Then, double and triple check it yourself. (True story: I (Teresa) had a typo on my resume for about five years, so, I get it.) 
  2. Make sure the letter is tailored to the job description. For example – we share some of the responsibilities of our intern in our job description, but I can count on one hand the applicants who have mentioned any of those responsibilities in two years of reading cover letters.
  3. Don’t try to fit all of your experience on one page. Focus on one or two things that will make you stand out. Your resume includes the rest.

These are the tips we heard consistently, but applying for jobs isn’t one size fits all.  Neither is writing a good cover letter. Here are some links with even more advice. And don’t forget to apply for our internship, or share the link with those that might be interested.

Shoutouts to Women in Media

(Ed Note: This section was written by Lea Trusty, who works on Democracy Fund’s Engaged Journalism program. Find more of Trusty’s work at the Engaged Journalism Lab.)

March is Women’s History Month, and we’re taking some time to celebrate all the incredible women journalists who pioneered in the field and inspire us every day. Women like Alice Dunnigan, Ida B. Wells, Dorothy Butler Gilliam, Gwen Ifill, Maria Hinojosa–the list goes on. And women journalists continue to report some of the most hard-hitting, consequential stories of today. Unfortunately, women journalists face ongoing challenges in the industry. According to the Women’s Media Center’s “Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2019,” women are continuously underrepresented in newsrooms, especially at the leadership level, and there are persistent pay gaps between men and women journalists doing the same job. For women journalists seeking training and mentorship, there are programs like ONA’s Women’s Leadership AcceleratorPoynter’s Leadership Academies for Women in Digital Media, and Take the Lead’s “50 Women Can Change the World.” (Disclaimer: These are all grantee organizations of Democracy Fund.) You can also check out Digital Women Leaders for free one-on-one coaching from some of the industry’s most badass women. For outlets, things like transparent pay policies, evaluating and checking personal and organizational biases, and investing in the growth and leadership of women overall can go a long way. 

Have a good weekend,

Josh, Teresa, Maya and Lea

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.