A project of Democracy Fund

October 4, 2019

Local Fix: Digital Security, Poetry, and Structural Change

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: Lock it Down
Emma Carew Grovum has a great overview of why all journalists – no matter your role – should be thinking about strengthening their digital security practices. “In the current climate,” she writes, “any story has the potential to go viral and bring unexpected attention to the news organization that published it, as well as the individual journalist behind the byline.” Her post offers a ton of useful links and resources for journalists and newsrooms to review, with concrete feedback from some of the smartest folks in the field on these issues. If you need help with digital security there are also a few great organizations that offer hands on help with security audits, training and support. Check out the Digital Security Exchange and Freedom of the Press Foundation to start.

Snapshots of a Changing Industry

On any given week we could fill the Local Fix with links to articles on the future of journalism. While we try to read all of those pieces, we don’t like to dwell on them unless they feel like they can teach us, and you, something new. We are particularly interested in nuanced pieces that confront the complexity surrounding the work of rebuilding local news ecosystems, reporting that digs into actionable details, and highlights challenges and solutions. This week we share three pieces that lift up the stories of people on the ground who are the “mad scientists” in their local news laboratories.  

Structural Change in Public Media

“For WHYY and other news organizations seeking to make a transformative shift toward antiracist journalism, pursuing greater inclusion and representation must be part of the work of journalism, and of the organization as a whole, and not just people with words such as ‘community’ or ‘engagement’ in their titles.” That’s the last line of an important new report published this week which provides a deep dive into one local newsroom’s effort to expand cultural competency. Minnesota Public Radio has also been investing in a major initiative to address bias in their newsroom. To do so they built a coalition including other local newsrooms and community groups. Earlier, the Latino Public Radio Consortium published a case study of KPCC’s efforts to rebuild their newsroom around voices that represent communities across LA. These efforts all had their struggles and missteps, but it is encouraging to see newsrooms take on these deep, extended efforts around diversity, representation and anti-racism work and moving beyond small episodic experiments. This work has to be about honestly confronting historical inequalities and damage done and making fundamental structural change in their organizations and their relationships with community.

News and Poetry

After the shooting in El Paso, the USA Today Network which owns the El Paso Times, asked poet Richard Blanco to reflect on this moment in America. Blanco was the first immigrant, first Latino, and first openly gay inaugural poet. His stirring poem – which echoes and transforms the national anthem – was published as an opinion piece with an accompanying video. In July, Josh Benton at NiemanLab wrote an account of why The New York Times gave a poet prime real estate on the front page of the paper the day after the moon landing. “Fifty years after ‘Voyage to the Moon,’ in a fractured country, it seems impossible to imagine the sort of communal moment of awe Apollo 11 inspired. Almost as impossible as a poem running on the front page of The New York Times,” wrote Benton. “But there was a time, not that long ago, when journalism saw its limits, stepped aside, and let the moment sing.” Below we have collected a few other examples of people mixing poetry and news in ways that might also “let the moment sing” and possibly even connect people in new ways.

Have a good weekend,
Josh, Teresa, and Zaria
@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.