A project of Democracy Fund

December 13, 2019

Local Fix: Recipes, Revenue, Podcasts and Block Parties

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: Recipes for Transforming Journalism
We loved these illustrated recipe cards that Alicia Bell of Free Press created to share the work they’ve done over the past year connecting communities and journalists in Charlotte, North Carolina. The recipes — one for a viewing party and one for a solutions workshop — are a powerful way to share lessons and enable other people to build on the work Free Press’s NewsVoices effort has done in the state. The entire post is a remarkable look back at the collaborative work that Bell has been doing in the state (and if you scroll to the very end, Bell shares one more recipe for a favorite –  vegetarian collard greens)

Start Revenue Experiments

If you are regularly bombarded with the common narrative that the business of journalism is dead, you might be surprised to see what we have for you in this section today. We know that journalism isn’t dying – it’s changing, as Kristen Hare said in a recent talk. Hare compiles several examples of why that isn’t true, and we are sharing a few more. For example, according to a new case study from the Shorenstein Center, Mother Jones grew audience and revenue by focusing on their audience, breaking down silos, and trying new things. Another case study this week came via WBUR’s BizLab that helped several public radio stations bring in over half a million dollars in revenue in total this year from business experiments. Both these studies shared some common tips on how to do it at your organization, including starting small, focusing on the community and audience, and collaborating across departments. We know we were inspired by these examples and Hare’s talk. Hopefully you are, too.

Podcasts + Local = ?

Looking back on 2019, podcasts have continued to grow in popularity and reach. But often, the conversation about podcasts focuses on national and international hits. In NC Local, a weekly email newsletter all about North Carolina’s news and information community, Melanie Sill compiled advice and links that local news podcasters could find useful, too. Jeremy Markovich, writer and host of Our State magazine’s Away Message podcast shared with Sill that local podcasters should go deep, find their niche, and be realistic about it. “It took the better part of three years to get this thing really rolling. But the idea has always been that we could reach new people and tell stories in really interesting ways.” Katherine Goldstein, the founder and host of The Double Shift podcast on working mothers, relationships, the workplace and American culture had some similar tips. “Be really clear on what your goals for the show are and talk to people in the industry about if they are realistic. The podcast space is becoming so crowded, so having a clearly defined idea for the show, and a plan for how to execute it is really important. “ After you check out the links with more ideas below let us know if you have any tips to share, or are working on your own local podcast. We’d love to listen to it. Hit reply and send them to localnewslab@democracyfund.org. We may share them in a future edition of the Local Fix.

Being in Community

We see so much potential in journalism that helps people gather, that convenes and holds space for new kinds of conversations, that listens and fosters dialogue. But it is good to remember that part of engaging communities means that newsrooms and journalists don’t have to be — and often shouldn’t be — the center of these events. There are amazing civic gatherings – from block parties to potlucks – happening already all over the country in our neighborhoods and communities. Being there as community members, as part of these places, is part of being a good journalist even when there is no story deadline. Across the country community foundations have been hosting community dinners through the On the Table project and journalists have been taking part, listening in and hosting some, too. In New York, The New York Times sent 20 photographers out to 65 block parties. As we have written about before, Radio Ambulante is supporting listening clubs. The links below include examples and toolkits that we hope will inspire you to think about where and how you can gather with your community.

Have a good weekend,
Josh and Teresa
@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.