A project of Democracy Fund

June 26, 2020

Local Fix: Solidarity, Research Roundup, and Radical Joy

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: Remember You’re More Than the Work
With every week bringing an exhausting news cycle it’s crucial we remember the importance of care. Care for our community, our peers, and ourselves is necessary for sustaining the work we do. One way to take some time for reflection within the community is taking part in OpenNews and IRE’s self-care webinar that is happening at 2 p.m. ET today (sign up here). And if you can’t make it, still sign up to get the recorded session sent to you. A bonus good idea: chime in with ideas for shaping this year’s online SRCCON from OpenNews, a participant-led conference next month for journalists who want to transform their work and their newsrooms. We’ll “see” you there! 

Solidarity with Black Journalists

From L.A., to Philadelphia, to New York, journalists at major daily newspapers are organizing to demand change at their papers to address longstanding inequality and systemic racism in staffing and coverage. “Holding Inquirer leadership accountable for a racist headline is just the beginning. The newspaper must adopt crucial reforms to guide its coverage of diversity and equity, and it must invite local community leaders and all Philadelphians to take part in this much-needed transformation,” wrote former Inquirer reporter Tauhid Chappell in an open letter to leadership with support from more than 40 community partners. L.A. Times journalists shared their experiences of racist treatment, marginalization and neglect throughout the newsroom through the #BlackatLAT hashtag. “Diversity is when Black journalists are in your newsroom. Inclusion is when those Black journalists are appreciated, empowered, respected, heard and valued — and that isn’t happening,” Michael Livingston, a Black reporter who worked at the L.A. Times from 2017 to 2018, said. The journalists speaking out today are taking enormous risk. Newsroom leaders should know that the world is watching and must stand up and support their Black journalists and all other Black employees. But while attention is focused on these larger newsrooms, we know that in every size and type of newsroom across the country there are journalists with stories like these, but without a union or colleagues to turn to for help. In smaller newsrooms, a journalist of color may be the “only one” in their newsroom, or one of just a few, and be unable to speak out because of fear of losing their job or not being heard. We have to ensure the changes we seek don’t stop at major daily papers and reach across our industry and our nation. Journalists must be able to take a stand, and we also should not wait for this change to happen newsroom by newsroom, sick-out by sick-out. This is the moment for change. Are you with us?

Research Roundup

We’ve learned a ton about the changes in the local journalism industry lately — or at least, we’ve attempted to by diving in to a half dozen of the useful research reports that were published in the past week. A number of researchers shared important findings about news outlets serving immigrant communities, trends in nonprofit news, reader revenue behavior, and more. These are good stats to keep in your back pocket for understanding the context of local news and its evolution. Here is one finding that stands out to us from some of the analyses:

Joy is a Radical Act

In our last newsletter in 2019, and again in March, we shared a passage from Reverend Victoria Safford that mentions remembering joy. The whole passage is worth reading, but joy amidst struggle really stands out to us this week. Joy, especially Black joy, can be a radical act, something many people have reflected on lately (see examples below). And it must be a part of the vision for the future of local news. The work may not always be joyful, Candice Fortman of Outlier Media pointed out at INN at Home last week, “but we can have joy in it.” (The video will be posted soon at INN.) In a webinar with the Knight Foundation, Sara Lomax-Reese, president and CEO of WURD Radio, called on journalists to find joy and true compassion in their communities. “Racism is a heart disease. Newsrooms have to center their coverage on people and love the people,” Lomax-Reese said. Also in Philadelphia, the COVID-19 Community Information Fund asked grantees “to share with us what love looks like in action,” Roxann Stafford, managing director of the Knight-Lenfest Fund wrote. One of The Oaklandside’s founding values is “to bring an ‘asset mindset’ to our coverage, reporting on and highlighting the brilliance and value of Oakland’s people.” We also saw it in action, with coverage in the Chicago Reader from City Bureau reporting resident Justin Agrelo of a joyful Puerto Rican People’s Day Parade. These are all examples of not ignoring reality, but by centering joy and love, envisioning a path forward for communities and how we serve them. Get inspired, and find or share some joy, soon.

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

P.S. We’ll see you in two weeks — we’re taking next week off. 

The Local Fix is a project of the Democracy Fund’s Public Square Program, which supports promising new experiments redefining the public square in ways that make it more digital, participatory, and inclusive. 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. Follow us on Twitter at @TheLocalNewsLab.