A project of Democracy Fund

May 7, 2021

Local Fix: A Heck of A Deal


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: Choose Your Words Carefully… With These Style Guides
One of many good things about The Objective newsletter is the way its curators include seven (!) different style guides at the bottom of each issue for easy access. These resources, like the AAJA Guide to Covering Asia and Asian Americans and the Disability Language Style Guide from the National Center on Disability and Journalism, are developed by and for people affected by inaccurate reporting on their communities. Recently, journalists at El Paso Matters and the Associated Press each updated and shared their own guidance and explainers on commonly used language in reporting on immigration and the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. As we recognize the start of AAPI Heritage Month, let’s start by bookmarking these references — and using them.

A Heck of A Deal

When the local owners of a network of suburban newspapers in the Denver area were ready to retire, they had some unexpected options. For many owners in that position, the only feasible route of selling their papers is to a private equity firm or a hedge fund, which frequently results in decreased quality and quantity of local journalism shared in their community each issue. But in Colorado, thanks to the navigation of a network of local and national partners, these owners could transition to local ownership in a new configuration that kept the civic value of local journalism front and center (and kept the dozens of journalists at the papers in their jobs). The Colorado Media Project, a backbone organization that aims to “provide a center of gravity for moments like this” as director Melissa Milios Davis wrote, helped connect the owners with the National Trust for Local News, a new initiative led by Dr. Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, Lillian Ruiz, and Fraser Nelson. After a few months of grueling work, the details were ironed out and on Monday the papers transitioned into new ownership, to be managed by the Colorado Sun, a digital-first startup led by folks who decamped from the Denver Post newspaper in 2018 after major cuts to the paper. “Local news should be locally held and locally owned,” NTLN’s Ruiz tweeted. The Trust is providing a unique way to do that and hopes to do so in more communities. The links below tell the story much better than we could here, but we want to underscore and appreciate the legwork that goes into making an effort like this happen. As Davis shared, “The process of putting together the CCM deal was, frankly, complex and arduous and took a small village to pull off. But we now have the result we all worked towards: These 24 newspapers will stay in local hands with a strong future focused on expanding their journalistic legacy and service to local communities.” This is the first time this new model has happened, but it doesn’t have to be the last. Take a look at the links below to see how this worked and how it might take place in your own community.

Wishing you a restorative 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.