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February 21, 2020

Local Fix: Collaborative Convincing, Reddit, Co-ops

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: Go Back to School

If journalism “is going to be a public good, it should look like the public,” City Bureau co-founder Andrea Hart points out in this trailer for a ~ free ~ online course at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. City Bureau is a nonprofit civic journalism lab based in Chicago that focuses on reimagining the relationship between journalists and the public in a more equitable way. The regular Public Newsroom workshop series is one of the core components of their work breaking down traditional barriers between news outlets and the people they can serve. Want to learn how to infuse City Bureau’s methods into your own reporting, or how to start a public newsroom where you live? Check out their course, and explore other free CUNY journalism courses like David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post on investigative journalism, The City’s Terry Parris Jr. on crowdsourcing your community, and more. The Knight Center at the University of Texas at Austin and Poynter each have a lengthy collection of online courses to explore as well. Happy learning! 

Local News Co-Ops Now Have a Pilot

“We have now formed the first local news co-op in the country,” said Chris Horne, founder and publisher of The Devil Strip, at the magazine’s first-ever owners meeting. The Devil Strip is a news, arts, music, and culture magazine in Akron, Ohio. In 2018 the magazine began looking for a new business model after realizing, like other local news organizations, that relying solely on ad revenue would not be enough. Horne had already been thinking about a news co-op approach as it would mean the magazine would be owned and held accountable by the community it serves. After researching different models, he settled on a hybrid of a worker and a consumer co-op: a multi-stakeholder co-op. The model has multiple tiers that allow people to become members or, if you’re an Ohio resident, stakeholders for as little as $1 month. The Devil Strip received funding help and guidance from The Membership Puzzle Project to make the transition from ad revenue to co-op, including connecting the magazine with The Bristol Cable, a fellow co-op media organization from the UK. The idea of news co-ops for media organizations isn’t new. Over a decade ago Tom Stites began sharing the idea of a co-op model for news organizations and began raising money for Haverhill Matters in Massachusetts, the pilot for his organization The Banyan Project. That program disbanded this January without achieving its goal; however, they did inspire other news outlets across the U.S., like The Mendocino Voice, to look into the co-op model. For The Devil Strip a news co-op means they will be able to engage their community at a deeper level. Not only are community members reading their journalism, they are able to weigh in on what they want to read about. They have a vote in where the magazine goes because they literally share ownership of it. And, as Tom Stites said, “Deeper reader engagement means deeper civic engagement.”

Reddiquette for Local News

If you’re looking for local stories, Reddit’s place-based subreddits are often a gold mine of quirky ideas that will get people talking. Many local news organizations have used Reddit to tap into passionate niche local audiences, have conversations about important topics, and find interesting things happening in the community. The Texas Tribune uses it to share information about news stories and host IAmAs (Q+A sessions). Denver 9News reporter Jeremy Jojola gets asked by Reddit users to explain things like faulty speeding tickets and dives into conversations. The Miami Herald’s Forrest Milburn monitors Miami and Florida subreddits for “hot” stories and Miami Herald mentions to see if he should jump into the discussion about them. But if you do want to start using Reddit, don’t just sign up and share your news articles. There’s a very clear “Reddiquette” that journalists should follow. We’ve shared some articles with tips and guidance below, but here are a few highlights. 1) Don’t self-promote. People will ignore or react negatively if you just post your own articles. 2) Be transparent. Don’t try to hide that you’re from a news organization. 3) Credit Reddit. Media organizations have been using Reddit for story ideas for a long time without saying they come from the site, which has disturbed many Redditors. Reddit, like other social networks, houses undercovered communities that journalists could learn from. Read on for more tips and ideas:

Convince Your Boss on Collaboration

Look, getting the higher-ups on board can be tough with any idea. But asking your boss to let you scheme about reporting with what used to be considered the competition? That can be really tough. Thankfully, the Center for Cooperative Media has nearly 300 excellent examples of journalism collaboration from the mid-2000s’ onward in a public database and now also a collection of tips on getting buy-in to make those collaborations happen. “One of the key reasons why journalism collaborations work when they do work is because of relationships. I often tell people starting a new collaborative to first get to know each other: find common ground, understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and hey, you can even be friends,” CCM Director Stefanie Murray advises. Check out her post for worksheets on planning collaborations, a list of journalism conferences, tips to educate the bosses, and more — and consider attending the Collaborative Journalism Summit in Charlotte in May. (We’ll see you there!)

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

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.