A project of Democracy Fund

September 11, 2020

Local Fix: Local Launchpads, Census Countdown, Colorado Collaboration


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: Remembering 9/11
Today, we take a moment to acknowledge the loss, sacrifices, and collective courage that took place on September 11, 2001. On the tenth anniversary, the New York Public Library shared its collection of oral histories, personal archives, tools for talking to kids, and resources for understanding the attacks. As our world faces wildfires, hurricanes, and a pandemic that all challenge our collective courage, the library’s compilation is a thoughtful memorial that centers the voices of New Yorkers.

New Projects for New Journalism

We’ve seen a growing number of journalism advocates and entrepreneurs kicking off new projects in the past month or so that reimagine local news for their communities. In Kenosha, Daniel Thompson left his newspaper after his editor refused to change a headline misrepresenting peaceful protests of Jacob Blake’s shooting. In just a few days, he raised $44,000 in a GoFundMe to “invest in me, my journalism skills and [if] you want a better news source in Kenosha.” He added: “I want to serve the community. And this is how I do it best.” In San Francisco, Portia Li was laid off in April after 33 years of reporting at World Journal, a daily Chinese-language newspaper published in North America. So she decided to start the locally-focused Wind Newspaper, a bilingual weekly newspaper available in San Francisco’s Chinatown. “This is how I want to be the bridge and bring everyone together,” she told the San Francisco Examiner. Nationwide, the Institute for Nonprofit News recently welcomed 13 people who are in the early days of their local nonprofit news outlet into a training program to focus on building out the business. And just this week, 24 aspiring founders were announced as members of LION Publishers’ journalism entrepreneurship boot camp. This group includes Aysha Mahmood who will work to amplify Muslim voices in Connecticut, Karen Williams and Wynter Ogele’s information outreach program for seniors in Gary, Indiana, and many more. Get inspired by their various ideas and approaches here. Are you working on something new, or thinking about it? Let us know!

Last Days of the Census

“Remember the census?” we wrote in February, highlighting this decade’s national count and the risks of it getting buried under misinformation around the citizenship question, among other challenges. Then…a pandemic kicked in, and as students headed home from campuses and the risks of face-to-face interaction grew, the census — the country’s tool for deciding the arrangement of the Electoral College, emergency response plans, and more — is facing more challenges than anyone could have expected. Though communities of color and non-English speaking residents are believed to be drastically undercounted, the census is nearing its (early) end for this decade on September 30, 2020. Still, several local outlets are doing a great job making sure the census is still covered, and journalism support organizations like Poynter, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, and Center for Cooperative Media have put resources in place to help journalists stay on top of it. Check out the resources from the Local Fix linked above and examples below to help you do your final push of coverage. Share with us more great examples if you see them.

“Journalism Beyond Competition”

Over at Columbia Journalism Review, Corey Hutchins recently unpacked the new arrangement in Colorado’s media ecosystem through the saga of local newspaper wars, the 2018 “Denver Rebellion,” and now the launch of the Colorado News Collaborative. This partnership of news organizations comes from the work of the Colorado Media Project, a separate entity built by local funders, universities, businesspeople, newsroom leaders, and more. The COLab, as the collaborative is nicknamed, is made up of 60 outlets and launched its first major project, COVID Diaries Colorado, in April. Hutchins notes: “While COLab was beginning to take shape before the pandemic hit, the virus pushed down the accelerator. ‘It heightened the feeling of the greater good, which made it all the easier to collaborate,’ [COLab director Laura] Frank says.” But this isn’t the only shift happening in Colorado. CMP and Free Press recently teamed up to organize Colorado communities in pursuit of more equitable journalism, acknowledging the uneven distribution of the “journalism renaissance” serving Colorado residents. The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition recently welcomed a pro bono attorney in partnership with the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press to help push for government transparency and bolster local journalism, and First Draft News is working with Colorado journalists to confront misinformation about voter fraud claims and mail-in ballots. Read more about these collaborations and how to build your own:

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

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. The Fix was started by Josh Stearns and Molly de Aguiar. Disclosure: Some projects mentioned in this newsletter may be funded by Democracy Fund. You can find a full list of the organizations Democracy Fund supports here. Follow us on Twitter at @TheLocalNewsLab.