A project of Democracy Fund

October 25, 2019

Local Fix: Donuts, Questions, Listservs

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: Eat a Donut
You deserve a donut. Really. Truly. We are sure of it. Given the pace of most newsrooms these days, local journalists we talk to rarely take time to stop and recognize their own accomplishments, moments of growth, and steps forward in their career. We know small wins are important, but we don’t always celebrate them. This week we came across Lara Hogan’s donut ritual (thanks to Joy Mayer and Katie Hawkins-Gaar) and wanted to share it. Hogan writes, “Not deliberately marking these moments left me feeling like I wasn’t actually accomplishing anything.” She has made eating a donut a part of her career celebration. You can read more about her approach and see all her donuts here


Who can argue with the power of asking a good question? What questions have you asked yourself lately that have encouraged positive changes? When’s the last time you led with a question rather than an assumption? Where in local news and in our industry should we be asking more questions? Why don’t we? How about you get inspired by our links full of questions to consider below? 

Goodbye Yahoo Listservs

In Washington, D.C., and many other communities, neighborhood listservs are go-to sources for community, information, and day-to-day updates. While they can turn into places full of peculiar arguments and overreaching neighbor surveillance, these email groups also help “digitally bind” communities, said Phillip Bost, who ran a site that mapped listservs in North Carolina told CityLab in 2015. These listservs provide a space between private and closed spaces, like texting groups, and public, like Twitter feeds, for neighbors to share questions, tips, and free stuff. So when Yahoo announced that they were scaling back listservs October 28, and deleting all old archives of content from groups in December, we were surprised not to see much conversation about it. Of course, Yahoo listservs might seem like a digital relic at this point but there are still lots of community conversations happening on them across the country. These informal layers of communication have filled important gaps in a local news ecosystem. Now the history and resources collected in those archives will be erased, and moderators are trying to figure out next steps. In just one neighborhood’s listserv in Washington, D.C., 52,000 messages from 20 years will disappear and the hundreds of people that have posted them won’t be connected anymore. Think about the local knowledge lost there. Also, some of these conversations will no doubt move to more private and closed-off spaces that may make that ability to ‘digitally bind’ neighborhoods more difficult. All of this reminded us of a post from Yancey Strickler about the dark forest theory of the internet – and why those in between spaces of digital dialogue can be so important.

Events to Connect

The rise in journalism events over the last decade has often been discussed in terms of new revenue strategies for newsrooms (we even wrote a whole guide on the topic). However, the power and potential of hosting, convening, and gathering together with your community goes well beyond dollars. This week we are highlighting a series of stories that explore the impact of events on communities, reporting and civic life. From a newsroom in Louisiana that started a soccer league to a digital start-up in Ohio that is asking its community to set the agenda for politics coverage these stories show new ways of thinking about newsrooms as facilitators and hubs of community. (Ed. Note: As we were putting together this week’s newsletter we learned that Jumbalaya News in Louisiana – who we link to below – suffered a devastating fire that has ruined their offices and destroyed their equipment. If you want to support them in this difficult moment you can do so here)

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.