A project of Democracy Fund

November 15, 2019

Local Fix: Nonprofits, Thanking Women, and Opioid Crisis

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: Stories of Atlantic City
A new playbook was released this week to help people learn from and build on a remarkable project out of New Jersey. We’ve linked to and discussed the Stories of Atlantic City work in the past here, but this week the team behind this community collaboration has released a powerful video and report that can serve as a guide for others who want to invest in audience driven journalism, especially around restorative narratives. “Restorative narrative is a journalistic method of going deeper into communities that have experienced such trauma to find stories of resilience and strength,” the report notes. You can see in the video the power that this kind of journalism has to both fuel incredible and important reporting and to foster deep community connections. 

Should You Be a Nonprofit or For-Profit?

This month the IRS made a landmark ruling by allowing the Salt Lake Tribune to convert from a for-profit to a nonprofit — the first legacy daily newspaper to do so. In Akron, Ohio, digital news start-up The Devil Strip converted from a for-profit to a nonprofit modeled after a community owned cooperative. We believe there is huge potential to expand support for local news through the nonprofit model, but we know that nonprofits aren’t right for every organization, community or founder. There are many considerations when deciding how to structure your organization, but it is important to remember that your tax status is not your business model. Every organizational structure involves different trade-offs and opportunities, and you still need a plan for how you will bring in revenue. At the Local News Lab we’ve created a guide to help you navigate the decision between nonprofit, for-profit and a range of other choices in-between.  Below we’ve also included links to a number of recent pieces debating the costs and benefits of different models. 

Covering Opioids

The story of opioid addiction and the impact on communities has been in the national spotlight this fall thanks to national court cases that have resulted in partial settlements and dramatic last minute deals. But at the heart of the opioid crisis are local stories, local people and local journalists who have been following this story for years. When we decided to pull together some examples of local reporting on the opioid crisis we were overwhelmed by the power, care, and empathy of so many of the projects we found. We’ve rounded up five of those examples from local newsrooms below. If you want resources on how to report on opiods in your community, Journalists Resource has a good overview, and the Center for Health Journalism has a guide

Who Thanks Women?

Over on Twitter this week, we saw “a chain letter we can get behind,” as Kim Bui put it, of people thanking 10 women, and passing it on. As notifications popped up, more and more people shared. We’ve seen thank fests like these on Twitter before. Back in 2017, we were inspired by Nikole Hannah-Jones to ask Local Fix readers to share women working in local news you admire, and many of you shared. These are a great way to honor each other for all the work we do. But one thing we noticed (and this is entirely anecdotal) was how this chain letter of positivity was largely women thanking other women. It brought to mind related conversations about how important it is for men to have female role models and what we lose when they don’t. For example, the National Museum of Women in the Arts started a campaign “Can You Name 5 Women Artists” back in 2016, and found that the majority of people could not. That’s reflected in what art gets recognition, too. Work by women artists can often make up a tiny percentage – 3 to 5 percent back in 2012- of art collections in the U.S. and Europe.  In MEL Magazine, writer Madeleine Holden writes about how in all fields  and conversations this happens and how men often reference their mothers or fictional characters as their female role models. In local journalism, that means men, and all of us, are missing out on the expertise and leadership and work that women have contributed. So, yes, thank women, but make sure men thank women, too.

P.S. Have you checked out our new guide to assessing local news ecosystems  yet?
Have questions or want to know more? Join us for a webinar with special guests Molly de Aguiar of the Independence Public Media Foundation and LaMonte Guillory of the LOR Foundation on 11/22 at 1 p.m. ET.
Register 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.