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October 9, 2020

Local Fix: Tools for 2020 Elections, Racial Justice, Local Ownership

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: Community Advisory Boards
This week the Dayton Daily News announced the third annual community advisory board for the 122-year-old publication, a group of 28 Ohioans. This includes the president of the community college, the CEO of Dayton Young Black Professionals, the Dayton police chief, and a local restaurant owner. According to community impact editor Amelia Robinson, the board will help guide the newspaper’s story ideas and may contribute to the op-ed page. Does your outlet build relationships with community leaders? Whose voice is heard beyond the editorial leadership? Check out the American Press Institute’s guide on community advisory boards, with tips on keeping in mind what you’re asking of people, demonstrating accountability to your board, and more.

The Election is Now

Over 6.6 million Americans have already cast their ballot, Reuters reported on Thursday. Juggling state-specific rules, changing circumstances from the pandemic, and abundant misinformation and voter suppression, voters need the service of their local journalists. What local rules do voters need to follow in filling out their mail-in ballots? How can people learn more about the judges up for election or the responsibilities of public offices like school board members and water commissioners? How is your state planning to handle the onslaught of mail-in ballots? See suggestions for answering these questions from Election SOS, a collaboration between Hearken and Trusting News for reporting on the election of 2020, from story ideas on vote-by-mail to a scenario planning guide to tools for tracking political advertising.You can see some of their suggestions in action across the country. Local outlets are helping voters answer questions about ballot mistakes in North Carolina, explaining what voter intimidation legally means in San Francisco, and what a voter can do if they decide to vote in person after requesting a mail-in ballot in Pennsylvania. Check out these ideas and more resources to serve your communities well right now in the links below.

Media Reparations

A lack of diversity and equity in journalism has driven inaccurate and harmful coverage of communities of color, and local journalists are core to changing this. In the past week, several organizations have shared frameworks that are worth taking some time with, and that can drive real transformative change. Media 2070 examines the history of anti-Black racism and harm and addresses the role trafficking of enslaved Africans played in making America’s earliest newspapers financially viable. The 100-page research essay connects this history to the media landscape today, from newspapers accepting 200,000 paid ads about runaway slaves to the underinvestment in the few Black owners of traditional media today. This project highlights how the media has played a role in amplifying harm against Black people, and offers ways the media can change and serve as a driving force for racial justice. And the movement is growing: A coalition of people of color working in public media also launched the Public Media for All campaign, calling for a national day of activism and education to address the need for diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry. This week, the Online News Association, OpenNews and the Maynard Institute also launched Vision25, an alliance across the three organizations to build journalism organizations that are inherently anti-racist and collaborative. “Too many people are apathetic about the possibility of real change in our industry because of past failed efforts,” ONA executive director Irving Washington, OpenNews director of programs Sisi Wei, and Maynard Institute co-executive directors Martin G. Reynolds and Evelyn Hsu wrote in the announcement. “We have no delusions that we, or anyone, could propose a project that would end racism in journalism tomorrow, in a month, or in a year. Real change is never going to be just one project or effort.” Together, these initiatives are paving the way for racial justice. 

Local Ownership

We often write about local ownership and entrepreneurship here in the Fix, including tips and resources for entrepreneurs back in August. More examples of the possible positive impacts of local ownership have come out recently, including the Media2070 essay. A study from the Center for Journalism and Liberty identified 10 factors that affected the resiliency of Iowa news organizations during the pandemic, including local ownership and commitment to community. A profile of the Helena World, a weekly paper in Arkansas which was bought by local owners from GateHouse, also shared how they adapted to 2020’s changes thanks to their community-focused owners. Plus, the Newmark Journalism School announced the first class of the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program, a list when paired with other startup programs like LION Publisher’s Startup Lab and INN’s Springboard Project and NewStart Fellows, gives us hope for what local news ecosystems can look like with more equitable local ownership. Get inspired and get your own ideas from these owners below:

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