A project of Democracy Fund

January 17, 2020

Local Fix: Local Misinformation, Student Press, More Podcasts

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: Combat Local Misinformation 
First Draft News is offering a set of trainings and fellowships for local journalists who are concerned about the spread of misinformation at the community level in the upcoming election. In ten places around the United States they are running “live simulations” to help newsrooms prepare for high impact events and online threats with a special eye to the tactics we know will be part of disinformation campaigns this year. In addition, First Draft will be giving $20,000 to at least five local journalists in communities “expected to see large amounts of information pollution in this election year.” They are eager to build their team and will fill the positions ASAP. Click here to check out the details and how to apply.   

Student Press Filling Language Gaps

2019 saw the shutdown of several major media organizations’ attempts to provide journalism beyond their traditional English-speaking, U.S.-based audiences. The New York Times closed NYT en Español and Tribune Publishing ended Hoy, its weekly Spanish-language newspaper in Chicago. But this week, students at DePaul University in Chicago launched a new site by and for Spanish-speaking DePaul students to produce news and opinion pieces. It’s not about translating the articles, though; it’s about having people who understand these communities produce this journalism. “In less than two months, La DePaulia has gone live with 11 contributing writers on deck,” the Tribune’s Dawn Rhodes wrote. She quoted René, a senior at DePaul: “DePaul has an interesting relationship with diversity. But they try to preach that, especially within the journalism community here. It just seemed like a perfect opportunity to do something that we talk about all the time but never actually get off the ground.” Student journalists have stepped up to fill the gap in other places, too, with goals to help people feel more connected and share a more accurate story of where they live.

Your Podcasts

In December we shared some tips from local podcasters excerpted from the NC Local newsletter. We also asked for you to share the podcasts you’re working on and some tips of your own — and you delivered. Get ready to add these podcasts to your queue!

San Francisco Chronicle newsletter editor Taylor Kate Brown shared a link to podcasts from the Chronicle, which has been experimenting for a long time with podcasts, with successes and failures. We even found an article from 2007 when NPR profiled the Chronicle’s earlier podcasts. “Here you are going to a newspaper’s website, not just some hip blog to find something that you can actually think is cutting edge of the culture,” the story reported. Canadian local outlet Taproot Edmonton also has been podcasting for a long time, including a new experiment of an audio version of their Tech Roundup, co-founder Karen Unland shared. “The barriers to entry are much lower now,” she said. Podcasts also give an opportunity to expand reporting and representation. Our Town Reno, part of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Reynolds Media Lab, started a podcast version of their reporting on the affordable housing crisis, gentrification, and homelessness in the city called Biggest Little Streets, coordinator Nico Colombant said. Colombant has run into difficulty with these podcasts getting traction and is interested in learning more about how to expand their reach.

Some podcasts gain listeners by appearing on other popular podcasts and through popular press. However, that has often led to what we see in other mediums — the same people getting recognition and many great storytellers being overlooked. That happened this week in a Washington Post article highlighting investigative podcasts. Angelica Das, a Senior Program Associate at Democracy Fund, pointed out that none of the featured podcasts had hosts that were people of color, despite the many local and national investigative podcasts that do. Thankfully, Angelica shared many examples, which you can click through to and subscribe below along with the other podcasts subscribers shared.


We’re excited to introduce two new bylines to the Local Fix this week. Intern Dani Rosales and program associate Christine Schmidt will be helping us put this whole thing together every week. Dani and Christine have both hopped around a lot in their work in journalism, not unlike many of you who have lifted up your lives to find new opportunities and challenges. Dani joins us most recently from KPCC in Southern California, spent about five years each in Eugene, Oregon and Florida, and is originally from Venezuela. Christine comes to Democracy Fund from Nieman Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is originally from Chicago, with stopovers in Dallas, L.A., and Hartford, Connecticut. While fewer people in the U.S. are moving for new jobs in the past, the journalism industry is increasingly transient, with many jobs pushing people to the coasts. How do you settle into life in a new place with all this change? We asked Dani and Christine to share some of their tips and favorite links as they get their feet on the ground. Dani recommends starting small, both in figuring out what you need to buy for a new home before jumping in, and finding one thing in common with each new person you meet to start building a friendship. Christine suggests signing up for the newsletters from other local media or startups to get a sense of the community and events as well as finding a third place or hobby to invest your time beyond work and home. (She also recommends the book This Is Where You Belong by serial mover Melody Warnick.) Reply to say hi to Dani and Christine and share your own tips for settling in to a new city and a new job.

Have a good weekend,
Christine, Dani, Josh, and Teresa
@newsbyschmidt, @danirosales27, @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.