A project of Democracy Fund

April 9, 2021

Local Fix: Different Kinds of Ownership for New Models of Journalism

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: Build for a crisis
“We believe for local news to have a future, it has to be built for people when they truly need information before it is built for people when they are just curious,” Sarah Alvarez, founder and editor of Outlier Media, shared in the organization’s first white paper out last month. Outlier’s model, which we’ve mentioned before, centers the information needs of low-income Detroit residents to find answers around housing, vaccines, food pantries, and more. Take some time to digest these six pages, and reflect on how your journalism does (or doesn’t) fit with statements like this: “Local news needs to be built for the present crisis in almost every local community: that so few have the information they need or feel they can trust.” 

Different Kinds of Ownership for New Models of Journalism

This week started with big news about the local newspapers that are part of Tribune Publishing Company: The Morning Call, Hartford Courant, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Virginian-Pilot, New York Daily News, and the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. have been teetering on the edge of hedge fund ownership, but campaigns to persuade wealthy, civically-minded individuals to take on ownership are showing promise. The efforts of the local journalists and their supporters to steer their ships away from pure profit motivations are no small feat, especially as media consolidation and diverse ownership was at the center of a recent decision from the Supreme Court and the FCC. But don’t overlook other forms of ownership, especially those that more directly tie the wellness of the organization to the wellness of the community. Studies have shown the significance and resiliency of local, independent media ownership. This week, along those lines, we’re celebrating Indian Country Today stepping into self-ownership through a nonprofit. “Indian Country Today is truly one of the best untold stories in media. A brand of many lives, it reverts to its indie roots for the first time in decades, free of tribal advocacy ownership,” Jenni Monet, founder of the Indigenously newsletter, shared. Other ownership structures, like the co-op model, are gaining traction, too: The Devil Strip in Akron, Ohio just reached its first birthday since converting to a co-op, where nearly 1,000 community members have bought ownership shares. They’re not the only ones exploring the model. As Tom Stites, who led the development of the co-op model at the Banyan Project, recently said: “At its base, what a news co-op monetizes is its members’ hope for their community.” Check out the links below to learn more about what this could mean for ownership in your community. 

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