A project of Democracy Fund

August 16, 2019

Local Fix: 1619, Local Climate Coverage, How to Run a Panel


Welcome to the Local Fix. Each week we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news, starting with one good idea… 

One Good Idea: Tips to Build Your Revenue Team

The American Journalism Project published a report this week that looks at the core elements of building a strong revenue team at local news organizations. Three key overarching takeaways include: 1) blend fundraising and business development skill sets with a mission-driven mindset, 2) focus on diverse revenue generation and 3) track your return on investment. The paper includes six case studies of local newsrooms across the country, each focused on different aspects of revenue, including membership, development, philanthropy and major gifts, underwriting, advertising, and marketing and audience development. Dive in here.

The 1619 Reframe

This week The New York Times released The 1619 Project, which marks the 400th anniversary of the first 20 enslaved Africans being sold to colonists in America. It seeks to reframe “the way we understand our nation, the legacy of slavery, and most importantly, the unparalleled role black people have played in this democracy,” wrote Nikole Hannah-Jones, who conceived the project, on Twitter. It is a tremendously important effort, and one that local newsrooms can use to have important conversations in their communities. Covering the project’s launch event for Columbia Journalism Review, Alexandria Neason writes, “For generations, journalism has papered over slavery’s impact, at times openly advocating the white supremacist ideologies that enabled the founders of the United States to justify treating human beings as property fit only for forced labor.” The sociologist and writer Eve Ewing, who contributed to the project, challenged the audience at the launch, asking: “How are we replicating these dehumanizing narratives every single day?” This challenge must be heard by all of us that work in journalism and local news. Many communities already are already planning these conversations with brunch events where neighbors can read and discuss The 1619 Project together. The Pulitzer Center created lesson plans and activities to go deeper into the issues. Consider: could you tell local stories that dovetail with this project and spark local discussions? How about bringing authors and artists together in your community to engage the issues the project raises? The links below offer some resources and ideas as well as some important history about journalism, slavery and white supremacy.

Covering Climate Without Burning Readers

On Thursday, Kip attended a training on effective climate change coverage with the Earth Journalism Network , a project of Internews, and the Solutions Journalism Network, hosted by Internews. Conveying the urgency of climate change without worsening  “news burnout” and “news avoidance” is a challenge for journalists around the world, but here are some tips from the training on how to avoid that. EJN’s Sara Schonhardt and SJN’s Samantha McCann shared academic research on effective coverage (see links below), along with lessons from the field. A few highlights: try balancing macro-level data with on-the-ground reporting about people working towards solutions. Stories about solutions – even failed ones – elevate local knowledge, collaboration and action, all of which are powerful antidotes to news burnout. But be careful not to link climate change to every extreme weather event, otherwise, “there’s a good chance we’ll exhaust people’s attention to climate change,” Schonhardt said. Also, don’t report on climate change only during times of disaster. It can be woven into relatable, everyday stories, like food stories, which help people realize that “something that seems overwhelming has an impact on their lives – and that they can do something about it.”

Magnificent Moderation

Journalism conference season is upon us, and you know what that means: a lot of panels. Good panels, and often, a lot of bad ones. Inspired by a Twitter thread from Stacy-Marie Ishmael, we’re sharing a few points on how a moderator can make sure discussions are useful and interesting. The most important? Prep work. Consider yourself the producer of the conversation, and guide the process from the beginning. Take the time to do prep calls with panelists, write questions, and create a rundown, Kara DeFrias says in another post full of helpful tips. Make sure to craft your own introductions rather than just reading panelists’ bios, Ishmael says, and be ready to guide Q+As during those “more of a comment than a question” moments. Follow the guides below and we know your panels will be great. Do you have other tips to add? Send them our way here or on Twitter, @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.