A project of Democracy Fund
The Local News Lab has been archived as of March 1, 2023. This page will remain online but will not be updated. More info.

July 9, 2019

Wyncote Foundation Report: How Local Media is Building Stronger Communities

This series of case studies from the Wyncote Foundation’s 2019 Building Stronger Communities Through Media report focuses on innovations in local journalism, public media and storytelling. We’re republishing a lightly edited version here on the Local News Lab with their permission and the permission of the authors.

By Sarah Lutman

In your town, do neighbors always know when the planning commission is making decisions about projects nearby? Chicago-based City Bureau is helping citizens attend public meetings, report on them, and share this information with neighbors.

Sierra Council, former City Bureau Fellow, poses a question at
a May 2017 Public Newsroom on how Chicago’s South Side is
represented in the media. (Image courtesy of City Bureau)

Do you often see voices missing from the public square? Los Angeles-based public radio station KPCC has developed Unheard LA, a program to help local citizens tell and share their stories with each other and the station’s broadcast and digital audiences.

Russ Fega presenting at Unheard LA, 2018. (Image by Louis Felix/KPCC)

Building Stronger Communities Through Media: Innovations in Local Journalism, Public Media, and Storytelling is a report from the Philadelphia-based Wyncote Foundation, profiling nine examples of projects making a difference in local communities with local support. Highlighted projects include Wyncote grantees, as well as other leaders in the field identified through research and requests to practitioners and grantmakers.

The new Wyncote report brings to life the growing conversation among place-based foundations about ways local media can animate and advance local funders’ diverse program priorities and grantmaking agendas. It follows the 2018 Wyncote report profiling nine local grantmakers’ media funding strategies. By providing information about groundbreaking work across the United States, these reports broaden the pool of examples that can inform grantmaking strategy and inspire deeper investment in media.

Innovations in Local Journalism, Public Media and Storytelling

This table of contents will be updated as each profile is published between July and October, 2019.

  • North Omaha Information Support for Everyone (NOISE), a hyperlocal news initiative formed by and for Omaha, NE’s predominantly black northside neighborhood.
  • City Bureau, a civic journalism lab in Chicago modeling a more democratic way of making media.
  • Mizna, a cultural organization in St. Paul, Minn. that elevates Arab and Arab-American voices through storytelling.
  • NJ Spotlight, a news website that has filled gaps in state policy reporting in the wake of newspaper closings.
  • Capital Public Radio (San Francisco, Calif.) – August 27
  • Resolve Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA) – September 10
  • Reel South (Durham, NC & Columbia, SC) – September 24
  • New Orleans Film Society (New Orleans, Louisiana) – October 8
  • Southern California Public Radio (Pasadena, Calif.) – October 22

Key Themes

The impetus for the 2019 report comes from Wyncote’s first-hand experiences in media funding, and a desire to share common themes emerging from funded organizations:

  • Deeper community engagement: Local media organizations like City Bureau (Chicago) are exploring new forms of community engagement that bring the public into the journalism process and give citizens a greater role in deciding what stories are told and how.
  • Bolder community empowerment: People and communities traditionally left out of mainstream news coverage are finding new ways to amplify stories from their neighborhoods and cultures. Organizations like Mizna (St. Paul) and NOISE (Omaha) identify and share stories as reflected in their communities’ lived experiences.
Grantmakers across the U.S. are investing in
new ways to connect citizens through media (The Wyncote Foundation)
  • Innovation in collaboration: News organizations like Resolve Philadelphia are finding new and creative ways to work with one another to increase and strengthen local coverage, amplifying community voices and exploring local solutions to community challenges.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion: The most consistent theme from the report is the way organizations are working to ensure that the full diversity of local community voices is both heard and served. Examples from multiple organizations show how local media is building reciprocal relationships across neighborhoods and geographies and working to bridge barriers of race, gender, age, and language.

The full report profiles the inspiring and creative work happening in local communities across our nation. The organizations and projects highlighted — and the funders who are furthering this work — give us hope for the future and offer grantmakers new approaches to making a difference “in place.”

Learn more about Wyncote’s longstanding efforts to build dialogue and strengthen practice among place-based foundations funding local media at https://www.wyncotefoundation.org/. To share your own examples, reach out to info@wyncotefoundation.org.

About Wyncote Foundation

The Wyncote Foundation’s Public Media and Journalism Program is a place-based philanthropy in Philadelphia that works to further a thriving public media ecosystem that is vital to animating and sustaining democracy’s public sphere.

About the Author

Image of author Sarah Lutman

Sarah Lutman is founder of 8 Bridges Workshop, a St. Paul-based consulting and program development firm, and serves as senior advisor to Wyncote Foundation’s Public Media and Journalism Program.


About the Local News Lab

Here on the Local News Lab, we regularly highlight collaborations between journalists, newsrooms, and communities that help build healthy news and information ecosystems. Click here to subscribe to the Local Fix, a weekly roundup of the best writing on journalism, paired with concrete advice, tools and resources for people who care about local news.