A project of Democracy Fund

May 17, 2019

Local Fix: Finding Funding and Fostering Imagination


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: 1000 True Fans
Can a start-up news organization find a path towards sustainability with 1000 readers? That question is at the heart of a new post from Phillip Smith, who coaches news organizations and leads trainings for journalism entrepreneurs. Smith explores a series of examples from business publications to local newsrooms who are eschewing scale and focusing on passionate fans instead. “A journalism upstart doesn’t need to chase a daunting goal of one million true fans;” he writes, “it’s entirely possible to build a successful journalism business around a more attainable number.” Smith’s piece doesn’t get into details about how to find, foster and facilitate those early fans, but we’ll have to dive into that in a future Local Fix. (For more on scale vs. relationships read about journalism’s Dunbar number.)   

Welcome to the Local Fix

Today we are at the Collaborative Journalism Summit, and we reminded the crowd that one of the goals of the Local Fix is to feature awesome people doing great things in local news. If you’re new to the Local Fix, we want to encourage you to send us the work you are doing, give a shout out to the person that should get more recognition in your local news ecosystem, or fill us in on the challenge you’re facing that you need help with. Hit respond and say hi via email, tweet at us @thelocalnewslab, or if you want to write more, pitch a Local Fix section. Thanks for joining us if you’re new to the Local Fix crew. Please forward this on to anyone who might find it useful! Here are three old editions of the Fix to give you a flavor:

Fostering Newsroom Imagination

Earlier this week, Kim Bui, audience and innovation director at the Arizona Republic, tweeted about how cynicism and skepticism in newsrooms can hold back progress and transformation at a moment when we need it most. From the Internet to blogging to social media to community engagement, she asks, “Imagine the state of journalism today if we had said yes, and spent time building up each other’s ideas instead of taking them down.” The question of cynicism and skepticism versus imagination and hope stuck with us. A few months earlier, Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, described its mission “to seek out truth and use clarity and imagination to build hope.” Clarity helps communities understand the world as it is, says Viner, and imagination helps them see what it could be. In that spirit, we wanted to share a few pieces that imagine a what journalism could be, with clarity and passion for community at its core. 

Finding Funding for Journalism

Over the past month a number of people have asked, “Where is the master list of all the grants available to fund journalism?” As the ranks of nonprofit newsrooms continue to grow, more and more journalists are trying to navigate the world of philanthropy. Two people who have worked in and around foundations for a long time, Jessica Clark and Molly de Aguiar, recently wrote, “Any nonprofit that has ever tried to figure out how to get its foot in the door with a funder, or spent countless hours on its application, and months waiting for a decision, already knows it can be relentlessly discouraging to try to get funding.” Their article – while directed at funders – has a lot of insights about foundations that are useful to people as they develop new relationships with funders. Right now, there is no master list of grants, but a number of people have pulled together guides that highlight opportunities that exist. 

Have a good weekend,

Josh and Teresa
@jcstearns, @gteresa

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.