A project of Democracy Fund

March 5, 2021

Local Fix: Inequities in our local news ecosystems exist. Here’s how to find them

Welcome to the Local Fix! We’re back after a break, and happy to see you. We’re working behind the scenes to bring a refreshed version of the Local Fix to your inboxes later this spring.

We’re working on sharing stories of people building and growing local news and information ecosystems to inspire cross-collaboration and support. This year, we plan to highlight stories of operational and personal sustainability, building community relationships, equity, and collaboration.

See something that you’d like to shout out or want to let us know if we missed the mark? Reach out! Reply to this email or DM us on Twitter at @TheLocalNewsLab. Thank you — we value your time reading here and doing the work you do.

One Good Idea: Are You Sharing Information People Need — In Accessible Ways?
Following the model pioneered by Outlier Media in Detroit, in the wake of the deadly winter storm and ensuing power outages in February, Texas news outlets started sharing information that filled gaps around water, power, and other resources via text message. After this storm and into the next one, people will continue to need vital, local information delivered in accessible ways. Even now, organizations like Mississippi Today are sharing where residents can find water in Jackson, Miss., and local journalists across the country are giving guidance on finding vaccines. Now is the time to figure out how your newsroom can be of service in new ways.

Examining an Ecosystem

This year, we’re going back to the basics to share what we’ve learned over the last few years digging deep into local news and information ecosystems. As always, we’ll be highlighting the perspectives and people who are teaching us along the way. For example, a new framework on assessing the health of a local news and information ecosystem from Impact Architects (funded by Knight Foundation, Google News Initiative, and Democracy Fund) found that the health of a community can’t be understood by the presence or absence of journalism organizations alone. Instead, you have to understand the community’s information needs — and if they’re being met or not. (Hey, remember that whole good idea earlier about serving community needs, wink wink?) This new framework was tested in nine communities, and includes a playbook that will help you do it in your own. We shared a few examples of even more groups across the country that have learned about their ecosystems and started projects to fill gaps in our toolkit last year, including in New Jersey, Colorado, and the Intermountain West. These tools can be used by anyone, but are especially meant for those considering funding local news. The Impact Architects research found that there were “extreme funding inequities” in the nine communities it was tested in. These “funding deserts” are key to understanding people’s access to quality information, Angelique Power, the president of Field Foundation in Chicago, said at Knight Media Forum this week: “We can talk about information deserts but we need to look at how funding deserts align to that.”

Wishing you a smooth weekend,
Teresa, Christine, and Areeba
@gteresa, @heres_christine, @areebashah_

P.S. This week Democracy Fund shared a post about how we are holding ourselves accountable to equity in democracy and in journalism. That includes our work here at the Local Fix. Take a read and let us know what you think.

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.