A project of Democracy Fund

May 31, 2019

Local Fix: Checklists, Spreadsheets and Positive News about Local 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: Build Your Own Bureau 

Bureau Local has created a networked approach to strengthening the capacity of accountability local reporting across the UK. They have “more than 1,000 members,” including local and national reporters, hyperlocal bloggers, technologists, engaged citizens and specialist contributors. “On our online platform,” they write, “coders helped journalists with tech tasks; designers built visualisations for newsrooms; members of the public provided information; experts brought forward contacts and insider knowledge; journalists shared resources, quotes and findings.” Now they have released a guide to help others learn from their model and they are offering to help more regions build these kinds of networks. Check it out here.

Local News in the Spotlight

A few weeks ago we highlighted a series of national articles on the state and struggles of local news. This week we’re zooming in on a few deep dives that help us see what is happening in specific local communities with much more clarity and nuance. From Kansas to Louisiana and Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains the challenges people are facing may be the same, but the solutions that are being explored vary in a myriad of ways that respond to the unique context of those communities. 

Checklists on Checklists

In a recent article, Frank Mungeam outlines how local TV newsrooms have taken Atul Gawande’s “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” to heart and created checklists for breaking news, multimedia content production, and more. Checklists can be a useful tool for newsrooms, collaboratives, and freelancers to increase accuracy, ensure continuity, and keep projects on track. We probably don’t have to tell you that though- when we went on the hunt for more checklists we found one for almost everything. We’ve compiled a few useful examples of checklists that are used for accuracy below, as well as (meta) tips for making a good checklist. A good checklist is short – five to nine items Gawande said in his book. Process counts when making it, Joanie Vasiliadis, TEGNA’s vice president of digital content, told Mungeam. Make sure to test and revise it. Finally, does it look nice? The NPR and First Draft News examples below are clear, easy to read, and can be printed and pinned to someone’s desk. Do you have a favorite checklist that you use in your work in local news? Send it our way by replying to this email.

Excel Tips and Tricks

Spreadsheets are powerful, but they can also be complex. We spotted some cool innovations recently that are making spreadsheets a bit easier to use, or boil down the spreadsheet to just a simple tool for simple tasks. In what seems like something close to magic, the Excel mobile apps on iOS and Android will now let you snap a picture of a spreadsheet and it will convert it to an Excel file. Imagine sitting in front of the filing cabinets in the basement of a statehouse and being able to snap photos of public records instead of retyping 40 pages of spending data from 1998. Or perhaps you need a quick spreadsheet to calculate the percentage of local resident applying for disaster relief after a tornado. TinySheet has you covered. Check out these tools and a bunch of easy spreadsheet tips below.


Have a good weekend,
Josh and Teresa

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.