A project of Democracy Fund

March 26, 2021

Local Fix: Caring for Burnout in Colorado and Beyond


Welcome to the Local Fix. Each week we look at key questions in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. But first, we always begin with one good idea…

One Good Idea: Explore the DEI Coalition Slack
Over the past several months, more than 100 members of the journalism community have carefully cultivated a digital community space for people who want to take action in building antiracist, equitable, and just workplaces and communities. Led by OpenNews, moderators of this Slack space are now taking applications for participants. Take a look at how the team developed the community space and the thoughtful criteria they have in place. 

Caring for Burnout in Colorado and Beyond

“Colorado journalists are running on fumes,” according to two recent reports surveying the state’s reporters. The biggest barrier to pursuing important stories, almost two-thirds of respondents said, is a lack of staff and funding to make them happen. This stat doesn’t surprise any local reporter who has spent the past year covering COVID-19 and the racial justice movement, among other issues in their communities. These reports came out just before the mass shooting in Boulder, where many local journalists like Lucy Haggard, May Ortega, Mitchell Byars, and Paolo Zialcita dropped what they were doing to spend this week unpacking and processing what happened. “Acting on these and other important lessons detailed in the report will be vital for the future of Colorado’s local news outlets and their ability to survive, thrive, and continue providing reliable local news as a public service to their communities,” the Colorado Media Project, a statewide coalition of funders, journalists, civic leaders, and more, wrote in the announcement of the reports. Journalists shared some suggestions in the reports, such as more funding for and collaboration on topics like racial justice and the environment, developing long-term relationships with communities that are underrepresented in media coverage, and new partnerships to support stronger reporting across the state.

Dealing with burnout, though, doesn’t have an easy fix. What helps? Where do we go from here? These are questions no one can answer in one newsletter, but you’re not alone in thinking about this. “People will try to convince you that being ‘hard’ is what makes a good journalist,” Susan Gonzalez, Chalkbeat’s Denver-based social media strategist, tweeted this week. “But really, it’s the softness that makes you better — the compassion, the empathy, the willingness to care even when you don’t have to. That’s what makes this job special: the humanity.” Here are some resources that can help support that humanity every day.

  • adrienne maree brown on staggering and burnout: “right now i feel like i don’t want the rest that comes inside of, or post, burnout. i want to intentionally bring my attention to my well being, and make adjustments so that i can sustain. i want all of us who are tired to learn how to stagger our efforts with each other.” 
  • It’s time for journalists to take their own mental health seriously — Dr. Glenda Gordon, USC Center for Health Journalism
  • “Remember you’re not immune to the emotional impact” and other tips and resources for journalists — IJNet 
  • If you’re in New Mexico, the New Mexico Local News Fund has assembled a list of mental health resources in the state
  • If you identify as part of the Asian American/Pacific Islander community, consider applying for funding for mental wellness resources through this GoFundMe by Sonia Weiser and the Asian American Journalists Association. Funding for mental wellness resources for Black journalists is still available through the Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund, also started by Sonia Weiser and now based at the International Women’s Media Foundation. (Donations are still being accepted for both.)

Have a smooth weekend,
Christine, Areeba, and Teresa
@heres_christine, @areebashah_, ​@gteresa

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.