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?
- “I continue to have nightmares that I still work there”: Many, many journalists speak out about racism in newsrooms across the country — Nieman Lab
- “We journalists of color are here. We’re ready to do the work. We’ve been doing the work. But we need you to step up your allyship” — Poynter
- What journalists can learn from organizers: A guide — Free Press
- What we learned from honest conversations about how to shift newsroom culture, to make equity a reality — Colorado Media Project
- Newsroom Playbook: Supporting Journalists of Color — ONA webinar Tuesday, June 30
- Diversity Toolbox: How to cross your faultlines — Society of Professional Journalists/Dori Maynard
- How the lack of diversity in these 10 local newsrooms impacts the way they serve their communities — Columbia Journalism Review
- Journalists of color, join the JOC Slack for support, advice, and more
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:
- “The percentage of people in the U.S. who pay for news is 20 percent (up from 16 percent last year)… Around half of those that subscribe to any online or combined package in the United States use The New York Times or The Washington Post … 88 percent of people in the U.S. who pay for news think they’re still likely to be paying a year from now.” — Nieman Lab summary of the Reuters Digital News Report for 2020
- In a new database of 50 growing and innovative immigrant-serving news outlets, researchers found that the outlets were active on more than 25 digital platforms and report in 30+ languages combined — Center for Community Media’s Immigrant Media Report
- “The overall newspaper industry has lost 65 percent of its employees since 2000, and 55 percent of its reporting jobs since the post- millennium peak year of 2005…. Our analysis indicates that the U.S. reporting gap is sizable but not insurmountable: a shortfall of between 15,000–21,000 reporting jobs, at an annual wage value of between $830 million and $1.2 billion” — Free Press
- “The number of communities that had their own newspapers in 2004 and now have no original reporting whatsoever, in print or digitally, has grown to 1,800 from 1,300” — Poynter summary of Penelope Abernathy’s newest news desert data
- “Though foundation funding still makes up the largest percentage of nonprofit newsroom revenue across the sector, the INN reported that 2020 was the first year for which foundation funding made up less than half of total revenues at a majority of nonprofit news organizations.” — Columbia Journalism Review summary of INN Index
- “‘More than one-third of the [nonprofit] outlets are local, up from one-fourth three years ago,’ the Index’s researchers, Michele McLellan and Jesse Holcomb, note. … The number of [NewsMatch] donors grew from nearly 360,000 donors in 2018 to nearly 55,000 in 2019, while individual donors increased by 26 percent. Community support was growing even before COVID-19 hit.” — Our analysis at The Local News Lab on the NewsMatch 2019 results and INN Index. We should also note the findings from INN’s first survey of compensation in nonprofit newsrooms.
- Our ongoing collection of research on how we know journalism is good for democracy
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.
- A Moment of Reckoning: How Journalism Can Begin to Dismantle Its Systems of Racism — Knight Foundation (and great notes of the talk from Gracie McKenzie)
- The Oaklandside Founding Values
- Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund announces $750,000 in grants — Lenfest Institute
- Puerto Rican flags fly high in June — Chicago Reader
- Naj Austin is Building Spaces & Products that Help People of Color Experience Joy, Feel Seen & Find Inspiration — People of Color in Tech
- Heat Check: Black Joy is Radical — NPR
- Black joy is resistance: Why we need a movement to balance Black triumph with trials — Black Youth Project
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.