A project of Democracy Fund

October 2, 2020

Local Fix: Black-Led Startups, Local Tunes, ZIP Codes


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: Protect Yourself Online
“Online hate is not an easy beat,” April Glaser writes for Journalist’s Resource. Glaser shared that after some of her reporting on hate group activities, she had to leave her home, and even posting about the harassment led to more harassment. But there are some things you can do on your own and newsrooms can do together to be more secure. Glaser shares 13 tips, including tightening your social media privacy, asking for help, and letting others know what you’re going through. Michelle Ferrier’s Troll Busters also regularly shares training, tips and more on how to protect yourself. 

A Spotlight on Black-Led Startups

“Journalism in a lot of respects has failed the communities that it tries to reach,” Tracie Powell told Christine a few weeks ago. Powell, program officer at the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund, was talking with us about the work of The Triibe, a platform for reclaiming the narrative of Black Chicago. The Triibe, she said, “is not trying to remake ‘journalism’ into [the industry’s] own image. They were actually reshaping journalism based on their communities’ images.” Through their journalism, their community engagement, and their Triibe Tuesday workshops and town halls (including this week’s town hall with Chicago’s mayor, as part of a collaboration with seven local newsrooms), cofounders Morgan Elise Johnson and Tiffany Walden have developed the platform as “more than a journalism site or a news site. It’s a community,” Walden said. This fall, the Local News Lab (home to this very newsletter!) collaborated with our sister Democracy Fund site Engaged Journalism Lab and the Lenfest Institute’s Solution Set to profile the work that Black-led local news outlets have done for years, especially in engagement and community-building. As industry-focused publications based at funders, it is important for us to call attention to the work of and the need to support outlets like The Triibe, Madison365, and Flint Beat. “When you look at how many Black and brown people are launching news agencies, so many are women,” Flint Beat founder Jiquanda Johnson told our colleague Lea Trusty at the Engaged Journalism Lab. “We’re out here trying to save local news.”

ZIP Code Stories

Statistics never tell the full story, something veteran journalist Richard Weiss already knew when he founded Before Ferguson Beyond Ferguson — a nonprofit that advances racial equity through storytelling. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Weiss pivoted the work to focus on stories about people living in the 63106 ZIP code of St. Louis City. The project is one of several that have used collaboration, engagement, and ZIP codes to tell people’s stories and to highlight the unequal impact communities have felt from COVID-19. In a detailed series of interviews with Columbia Journalism Review, various newsroom partners that benefit from the 63106 project shared what it has been like participating in what Weiss called “the tiniest stimulus program that you can imagine.” They’ve benefited from shared content, resources, and dollars, and also connected with families who live in 63106 in different and deeper ways. Looking through the lens of ZIP Codes can unearth stories in new ways. In Chicago, WBEZ spoke with the relatives of 50 COVID-19 victims, drawing their stories from four ZIP codes disproportionately impacted by coronavirus. In NYC, The City analyzed location data and ZIP codes and found that there were clusters of COVID-19 deaths among people who lived near the Cross Bronx Expressway and in certain ZIP codes. Check out more examples below. 

Play That Song

What music makes you feel at home? While, yes, so many of us are still staying at home due to the pandemic, we’re connecting over music in new ways. This week, we were inspired by how City Bureau used a curated playlist to welcome new participants in Cleveland to its Documenters program. “The music was meant to get folks comfortable in a new space designed for community-building as we prepare to send them out to a space that, in many cases, was not built for them: local government,” Darryl Holliday wrote in a debrief of the welcome event. In Philadelphia, two residents used the Shazam app to identify songs drivers would play as they passed by their apartment to create a playlist for their intersection, the Inquirer’s Stephanie Farr reported. The tunes that make up communities matter, from supporting local artists to recognizing the diversity across the region. What other neat connections have you seen between local vibes and musical ties? Let us know by replying to this email or tweeting us @TheLocalNewsLab. 

 See you next week,
Teresa, Christine, and Areeba
@gteresa, @newsbyschmidt, @areebashah_

P.S. Notice a new name? Welcome to Areeba Shah, our fantastic new intern who will be writing, editing, and much more here on the Fix over the next few months. Say hi and follow her on Twitter at @areebashah_.

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 here. Follow us on Twitter at @TheLocalNewsLab.