A project of Democracy Fund

May 29, 2020

Local Fix: Acting in Justice, Funding Futures, Local Leaders

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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: Resources for readers on mental health

In the past few weeks, the Local Fix has highlighted mental health resources that exist for the journalists who are working hard to cover COVID-19. But we know that consuming the news can add stress and tension to readers who are already living through this. As Trusting News’ Joy Mayer pointed out on Twitter, sometimes what readers need is help keeping up “with the basics, not just whatever’s ‘new’ today.” One way to do so is rounding up local resources like KPCC-LAist’s no panic guide to mental health or CalMatter’s mental health tips that are helpful and clear. This week was marked with a lot of particularly difficult events and it’s important to consider the needs of our community beyond the latest news.

A Week of Sorrow and Action

This week we marked 100,000 lives lost due to COVID-19 and collectively witnessed the racist targeting of Christian Cooper birdwatching in Central Park and the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. These are just two names who have broken through into the national discourse, but local communities know many more names of victims of racial violence who never get national attention. Journalism has to take stock in how it both tells the story of systemic racism and inequality in our country, and how that work moves our communities and our nation towards justice. We hope newsrooms are willing to have that conversation. We also know that Black journalists and journalists of color face these challenges every day, and are most often the people leading that work within their institutions with no extra support, care, or recognition as Seattle journalist Mohammed Kloub shared on Twitter. That is all while facing the mental, social, and physical effects of seeing this all the time. We recognize that we have to combat institutional racism as institutions and at the systemic level, but we can also stand up and act as individuals, and support Black journalists at this time. As Dorothy B. Gilliam, the first Black woman hired at The Washington Post shared on Twitter, “Silence doesn’t solve problems, action solves problems.” Here’s how each of us are taking the next step this week:

  • Teresa: Following and magnifying the #BlackJournalistsWeLove hashtag on Twitter, and diving in to anti-racism resources from FightForBreonna.org.
  • Josh: Bringing anti-racism work into my home through conversations with my kids, reading books like “This Book is Anti-Racist” with them, and supporting organizations like Embrace Race which fights systemic racism by “supporting parents to raise children who are brave, informed and thoughtful about race.”
  • Dani: Checking in and calling out my fellow non-Black people of color in their anti-Black prejudices and listening and highlighting the voices of the Black journalists and people who experience this racism and discrimination everyday.
  • Christine: Turning to the resources on allyship at White Accomplices and Source and supporting the building blocks to a more diverse journalism industry through donations to AAJA, NAJA, NABJ, and NAHJ.

The Future of Journalism Funding?

In the past decade, philanthropy in journalism has grown — though not quite to an extent that would fill the gaps created by the drop in advertising and the rush to reader revenue. (We should also note that, hi, we’re writing this newsletter as part of a foundation that was created half a decade ago.) But the new generation of funding journalism comes with a new set of dynamics and opportunities to reimagine local news, not just preserve it. These new models are specific to the regions they serve, like the Colorado Media Project, the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, and the Jefferson Center’s Your Voice Ohio initiative, as the Los Angeles Times’ editorial board recently pointed out. The Great Recession contributed to those changes, and the economic reality created by COVID-19 will spur more changes in the way journalism is funded, drawing on the lessons learned from the past decade. Several writers recently explored what media philanthropy could look like going forward and we wanted to share their articles with you. Forecasting the future of journalism philanthropy is an ongoing process that is shaped by each conversation and we look forward to having more conversations about what this will look like.

Celebrating Leaders in Local

What can bring us back to a hopeful stance is reading about and talking to inspiring leaders who are serving their communities, building new enterprises, and kicking butt while they do it. There have been a spate of profiles of several of them recently, so we are sharing with you to also bring you some hope going into the weekend. Leaders like Mukhtar Ibrahim in Minneapolis, Wendi C. Thomas in Memphis, and Jiquanda Johnson in Flint have ventured out to start news outlets that serve and bring vital information to their communities. We salute you. Who else working in local news would you love to see featured in profiles like these? Respond and let us know — or give them a shout-out on Twitter and tag us @thelocalnewslab.

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.