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.
- The Black Owned Media Alliance in Miami is a collaboration between 12 black-owned media companies to secure advertising revenue and more – BOMA
- Coast Alaska is a partnership between small stations in Alaska with a shared backroom operations center that has existed for over 20 years – Project Facet
- Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism has set up a model that shares resources, dollars, and training and it has spread to other areas including Little Rock, Baltimore, and Santa Fe – BINJ
- Detour Detroit gave 20 percent of their membership proceeds to their investigative news partner Outlier Media – Detour
- In Texas, 21 newsrooms pooled their money to buy public data – Source
- The Daily Tar Heel and The Duke Chronicle held a joint fundraising campaign around a basketball rivalry – Solution Set (ht @ylichterman)
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:
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- How to Write a Cover Letter That Will Get You a Job, and More – Ask a Manager
- Advice from NPR on writing an internship cover letter – NPR
- Cover letters: 4 tips to help you win the job – Poynter
Shoutouts to Women in Media
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 Accelerator, Poynter’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.
- SheSource is an online database from the Women’s Media Center that makes it easier for journalists to connect with women experts for their reporting
- Chicken & Egg Pictures supports women nonfiction filmmakers through grants, training, and mentorship opportunities.
- The International Women’s Media Foundation provides several fellowships for women covering issues domestically and around the world, and also hosts Hostile Environment and First Aid Training (HEFAT) courses for journalists who might face dangerous conditions reporting from the field.
- A Twitter Thread: Celebrating Women who are Making Democracy Stronger, a List of Democracy Fund Grantees led by Women
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.