A project of Democracy Fund

May 15, 2020

Local Fix: Art, Intern Season, Recognizing Voices


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: Get collaborative, today!
This week marks the fourth annual Collaborative Journalism Summit, developed by the Center for Cooperative Media as a convening for all collaborative minds in media. For the first time, it is virtual and free (and with Zoom bingo cards!). The summit began on Thursday but Friday still has a full day of activities; check out highlights on Twitter at #collaborativej and read up on the live note-taking and graphic recording here

The Art of Civic Information

In this crisis, as in many other crises, artists are combining creativity and design to deliver powerful messages of hope and safety in this moment. Art has always been part of the ecosystem of ways people are informed and engaged in our democracy — community bulletin boards are another example — but the efforts we are seeing around coronavirus feel particularly poignant. In Philadelphia the Cover the Walls project fills empty businesses and schools with art that can “support folks’ emotional/mental health, share resources, dream of a more just future, and call out politics in this critical moment.” Former Local Fix editor and longtime friend of local news Molly de Aguiar tweeted out some examples of this art in Philly paired with important safety information and resources for communities. In Washington, D.C., a group of designers launched the Viral Art Project, inviting designers to create posters that will “raise awareness of the challenges facing all of us, and promote messages about what we have to do and how we can get through this time together.” Amplifier, a design lab centered in art and grassroots movements, launched a similar global call for art; though it’s now closed, you can download artwork from its campaigns for free. We have written before about how artists and journalists can partner, and we think there is a lot of opportunity in this moment to find common cause and collaborate. Is there amazing art happening in your community in response to the coronavirus? Send us a link!  

COVID-19 Internships: Plan B

Internship season is stressful. You spend hours looking for internships, perfecting your cover letter and resume and preparing for interviews hoping that at the end of it you’ll have an offer. And on the newsroom side, you’re recruiting, reading the applications of, and deciding on who to add to your team for a few months. Before COVID-19 many college students were starting to receive and accept the coveted offers, and even as college campuses began closing, many were still expecting to do their summer internships as planned. But, as the pandemic developed, “internships—already an equity gap for young adults—[started getting] cancelled because of #coronavirus, leaving some students facing income loss and even homelessness,” Rainesford Stauffer pointed out on Twitter. According to Pay Your Interns, a nonprofit group now coordinating a #SaveInternships campaign, nearly 1 million internships across the economy are expected to be cancelled this year. Journalism internships are tangible newsroom experience, mentorship from more seasoned reporters, and the start of relationships with potential employers; they’re a chance for news organizations to add some extra, albeit temporary hands and help cultivate the next generation of the industry. We understand that these are scary times for aspiring journalists out there, and although job hunting during the pandemic might present an extra challenge, it’s not impossible. Here’s some advice, resources and encouraging words to help you navigate these tough times:

Communities of Color Have Voices — It’s Beyond Time to Listen

“Even people who can’t speak have their own voices, and they have them whether or not we reporters pull near. The problem (then, now) was not a lack of voices but of listeners,” Katherine Boo, an investigative journalist, has said. The “voiceless” label is often applied to communities of color by people who have never taken the time to actually listen to the voices that have been there all along. However, in response to COVID-19 we are seeing some promising efforts to listen and amplify the voices of communities being hardest hit by the pandemic. In New Jersey, a new fellowship will support 16 journalists in community media spanning Chinese, Korean, Latino, African American, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi online, broadcast and print publications in their COVID-19 coverage. In Chicago, the Sun-Times started providing coverage in Spanish of and by Spanish-speaking residents, led by “barrio journalist” Jacqueline Serrato who started her journalism career with a bilingual Facebook page about her community that attracted 150,000 followers. And the hardworking journalists behind the weekly Navajo Times, serving tribal communities in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico — and the way American Indian communities are left out of COVID-19 support — received national attention through a profile by Elle magazine. “It breaks my heart to write about my own people dying,” journalist Krista Allen told Elle. “But these kinds of stories need to come from me.” Here’s more on how journalists are ensuring the stories of their communities are being heard in this moment.   

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

P.S. Congratulations to the North Carolina Local News Workshop, a new statewide journalism collaborator and convener supported by the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund and Elon University which launched this week. Read more at LocalNewsLab.org.

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.

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