A project of Democracy Fund

May 1, 2020

Local Fix: #GivingTuesdayNow, Diaries, Press Freedom


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: #GivingTuesdayNow

Usually, Giving Tuesday comes around just once a year, tied to people’s feelings of generosity on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the U.S. But this year, due to the needs exacerbated by COVID-19, it’s happening twice. On Tuesday, May 5, organizations around the world — including dozens of newsrooms — will take part in Giving Tuesday Now, an effort to mobilize global generosity and unity in the face of the pandemic. Thanks to the NewsMatch team, including the News Revenue Hub, Institute for Nonprofit News, American Journalism Project, and more resources rounded up by Poynter, your newsroom can see how to make the most of Giving Tuesday Now. Even if you’re not participating, the resources created include guidance you can use any time to ask for support. 

Relationships Are Key to Resilience

When the world turns upside down it does not matter how strong each of us are; what makes a difference is the strength of the connection between us. We are seeing that play out in profound ways during this pandemic through mutual aid, creative communications, and inspiring collaborations. In places around the U.S. where journalists, funders, and community groups have spent years investing time and resources into building new kinds of relationships, we are seeing remarkable responses to COVID-19. From North Carolina to New Mexico, Chicago to Colorado, these networks have enabled people to move swiftly to build important responses to community and newsroom needs. The Center for Cooperative Media in New Jersey has been a hub of such activity for nearly a decade now and this week released a truly impressive statewide map of the topography of its local news. With this map they are able to understand the landscape of local news in the state much more deeply and they note, “even at a moment of deep crisis… there is a wide breadth and depth to local journalism that is often overlooked. It is crucial that the diversity and dynamism of local journalism be acknowledged in addition to the crisis.” We think understanding these news ecosystems is critical to strengthening the relationships that will sustain them.  

Storytelling Through Diaries

Journalists are helping us make sense of the numbers in the COVID-19 crisis, but, with everything going on, it can be hard to remember the people behind the stats. The pandemic has impacted communities across the country in different ways — people have lost their jobs, some are struggling to care for family members, others grieve the loss of loved ones and of their lives pre-COVID. Certain communities, like those with high concentrations of people experiencing poverty and people of color, have been hit the hardest. These also represent some of the most underrepresented and undercovered communities in media across the country. That is why some local outlets are turning to the relationships they’ve built, passing the mic back to the public and using first-person photo, video, or essay diaries to show how the coronavirus has affected their communities. First person essays aren’t new (check out these diaries from the 1918 influenza) but narrative work is a powerful way to connect people through storytelling. It breaks down what was previously an inconceivable number or fact: it’s not just 30 million people who have filed for unemployment since March, it is Dee Fearrington from Durham, North Carolina who is struggling with no work and no healthcare. And, for those who are struggling though something similar, these diaries are a way to see themselves represented and feel less alone. Here are some of the local COVID diaries we’ve seen:

A Free Press Every Day

Sunday is World Press Freedom Day, a day set aside to remember journalists who’ve lost their lives and to raise awareness about the importance of press freedom around the world. And just like so many pieces of our society right now, COVID-19 shows how important press freedom is while at the same time threatening it. Three in four journalists have faced official restrictions, obstruction or intimidation in reporting on the pandemic, according to a survey by the International Federation of Journalists. In the U.S., journalists are facing an inability to access public information, safety and health concerns, and more that can inhibit their work. PEN America has highlighted some local journalists and what they’re facing in honor of that. But these local journalists — and you — don’t have to face these challenges alone. Organizations like MuckRock and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have put together resources on how to request information, navigate HIPAA laws, and stay safe when out in the field. And since this is a long-term situation, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas has started a MOOC in honor of World Press Freedom Day with UNESCO to give guidance on how to cover COVID-19 over the long term. Bookmark these links to help guide you through all these thorny press freedom issues at this time and beyond.

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.