A project of Democracy Fund

July 10, 2020

Local Fix: Recognizing the Work, COVID Memorials, and Deadlines

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: Recognize the (ground)work

As we continue to navigate these (say it with us) unprecedented times, sometimes the best idea is to take time to celebrate the wins. And that is exactly what many Black journalists did when The Associated Press Stylebook announced it would start capitalizing the B in Black when referring to people and culture on Junenteenth. When celebrating, it’s important to recognize that this change comes after years of demands from Black journalists who see this as an “issue of respect, fairness, equality, and parity,” as Aly Colón noted in 2003. His words were resurfaced in a recent Poynter article that highlighted the work of many Black journalists who pushed for this change for decades. In that spirit, we want to know — who has led the way for you who does not get enough acknowledgement? Shout them out on Twitter and tag us @thelocalnewslab, or respond with a note to this email. We’ll do what we can to help spotlight them.

Go Under the Hood

For too many people, the development of local news is a black box of internal decisions and reporting somewhat extracted from sources. Local news can offer an opportunity to build trust, and invite neighbors to look, well, under the hood. The Bureau Local, a collaborative investigative journalism network with more than 1,000 members in the U.K., recently shared how its deep listening and community interviews resulted in its Manifesto for a People’s Newsroom, pledging that it will guide all its future work. In Alaska, journalists from the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network explained their process for building relationships with sexual assault survivors — and working alongside the people who spoke up to ensure they were represented in a way that was powerful to them. “Many of you want to talk,” the journalists wrote to people who had suggested they might want to speak out after attending a community event. “You say speaking about your experience is a form of justice. You want other people to feel less alone. You want to support one another. We know you didn’t choose to have the experience of sexual assault. Now, if you choose to speak, we want you to feel empowered by the process.” Trusting News has a collection of ways newsrooms are talking more openly with their audiences and building trust in the process. By sharing power with people whose stories need to be more broadly heard and understood, our local news can truly welcome collaboration under the hood. 

Memorials During COVID-19

In April, Moriah Balingit, a reporter at The Washington Post, was working on an obituary for a woman who died from COVID-19 when the woman’s daughter told her that she hoped the obituary would make up for the fact that the family couldn’t have a proper memorial service or funeral. Thousands of families and friends are facing the same tragic truth. Placing an obituary in a local news outlet, or having a reporter write one, could be the only contact someone has with a local paper, Victor Hernandez pointed out in a post sharing the bad experience he had when trying to place an obituary for his brother in a local paper. “…The viability of your publication is centered on community value, and how you look to find support through relationship channels,” Hernandez shared. If that community care is not centered during an incredibly painful moment for people, they will lose trust in your outlet. But not everyone will receive an obituary — with over 133,000 official deaths from coronavirus complications as of this morning, there are far more names and people that can be covered, even if the expanding pages are one way we can mourn these lost lives, Balingit’s Post colleague Elahe Izadi pointed out. Obituaries can also be expensive, reporters at The City in New York found, shutting out many who are facing economic hardship from memorializing their loved ones in public record. To counter that, we’ve seen several local collaborations sprout, including at The City with a project called Missing Them, and in New Jersey with a partnership called Loved and Lost coordinated by The Center for Cooperative Media. Both projects include collaborations between local outlets, students, and universities to do a job that would be too difficult for just one organization. They also are working together with community members, funeral homes, and other organizations to name every life lost in their states. We know it isn’t easy for anyone involved to surround themselves day in and day out with the stories of lives lost, but these collaborations are a true act of community service at a time when they’re needed most. If you are also working on a local memorial collaboration, respond and share the information with us.

Don’t Miss These Deadlines

There are several opportunities related to professional development for journalists, freelancers and newsrooms that have upcoming deadlines (including one that’s today). It’s not easy to keep track of all the available opportunities, so we’re here to make it a little easier. If we are missing one you think we should highlight, let us know and we can feature it in an upcoming newsletter. (And remember, even if you don’t think you meet all the requirements for a program or consider yourself a leader, today’s the day to change that mindset.)

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

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.