A project of Democracy Fund

June 14, 2019

Local Fix: Missions, Analytics and Fundraising


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: Share your personal mission

Outside of nonprofit media, newsroom mission statements are still rare. Too many “About” sections lack a sense of purpose, or are written for potential advertisers over potential audiences. That’s why we loved this idea from KPCC in Los Angeles. KPCC published their mission statement, and went a step further by having each journalist share their personal mission statement with readers. Reading through them is compelling and a very clear reminder that for so many of us, this work is personal and driven by a mission to serve our communities. Why not make that mission more visible and explicit? Doing so might not only build loyalty, but also invite your community in so they can imagine how they might live out that mission with you. For other examples of this idea, check out the Discourse in Canada and this Twitter thread from ProPublica in 2017.

Get Creative With Analytics

Local outlets are pioneering new ways to use analytics as a way to better understand their audience, hone coverage, and reach new readers. The Seattle Times used a hackathon back in 2017 to launch the development of their own analytics hub, which it has since workshopped to fit the needs and desires of their newsroom. “We wanted to focus more on the readers, rather than faceless metrics like pageviews, which when set as a goal often leaves a sour taste after the last couple decades of growing pains in digital journalism,” writes Joshua Hart, a product manager for the Times. In a similar adaptation from the tech world, The Fresno Bee took the idea of “sprints” from app development and created their own process for growing audiences in specific coverage areas, like food. Poynter details how restaurant reporter Bethany Clough worked with a growth editor to survey her readers, figure out what they cared about (and what they didn’t) and design a “sprint” that has grown her audience and honed her reporting process. But how can newsrooms get more comfortable with using analytics in this way? In a report for the American Press Institute, Melody Kramer and Betsy O’Donovan outline how newsroom leaders can utilize other forms of data beyond just page views, and offer helpful tips for defusing the (understandable) fears many journalists have around analytics. Properly used, analytics can be a powerful tool to help local journalists do what they’ve always done best: connect deeply with readers by finding and telling stories they care about.

Learn Something New This Summer

Summer is full of conferences for journalists to learn new things (check out #IRE19, #PRNDI19 and #INNDays2019 for conferences happening just this week). But we know that not all people can go to conferences – and they’re not the only way to up your skills. In no way is this an exhaustive list, but here are just a few very practical and specific guides you can bookmark to get your learning on this summer. For example, The New York Times just open-sourced their data training and NiemanLab has a helpful synthesis of all it has to offer, including examples of how Times reporters across a wide range of beats have used the skills to unearth new stories and wrangle big data sets. Interested in building or deepening your audience through an email newsletter? Check out the Lenfest Institute’s comprehensive guide. And if revenue is on the docket this summer, Better News can walk you through diversifying your revenue streams, from understanding the big picture to hashing out a plan of action. To dig deeper, check out the list of sites we regularly reference to compile the Local Fix in our resource list spreadsheet.

Tips for Fundraising 

Fundraising can feel like an emotional roulette, at turns mysterious, routine, frustrating, high stakes, uncomfortable, risky and much more. For a lot of news entrepreneurs, journalists and others in media, asking for money from local donors or big foundations is still new. However, there are a lot of lessons we can draw from the broader nonprofit sector, and from those in public broadcasting who are constantly honing the art and science of fundraising. In the links below, we’ve highlighted some ideas we thought were fresh and interesting from nonprofits, advocacy, and media. Each of the resources shares concrete advice that we hope will be helpful. Do you have a favorite tip or trick for fundraising? We’d love to hear about it. Just hit reply or tweet us @thelocalnewslab.

Have a good weekend,

Josh,Teresa and Kip

@jcstearns@gteresa@kipdooley1

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.