A project of Democracy Fund

July 2, 2021

Local Fix: New numbers on local news (and take a break!)

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: Yet Another Reminder to Take a Break
Join the ranks of The Objective, us (!), and many more next week as we 👏 take 👏 a 👏 break. As Vu from Nonprofit AF put it, “I know that taking a break here and there won’t solve the systemic issues in our sector, which include funding instability; lack of decent pay and benefits for frontline staff; racial and gender wage gaps; and so on. I know we also feel guilty about resting when so many in the world are suffering. But we cannot do our best work if we are not at our best.” Please take the time to recharge, reconnect, and give yourself the rest that you deserve; if not next week, then sometime soon. We’ll be back in your inbox in two weeks.

What We’re Learning About Local News

Hot off the virtual presses: Recent research from the Pew Research Center, Institute for Nonprofit News, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, and more is shedding light on the role that local news does — or doesn’t — play in people’s lives. While the pandemic drove home the need for local trusted information in 2020, as the U.S. slowly slides into the pandemic’s next phase, we are learning from last year’s trends. For example: 

  • Local public radio stations are slowly increasing their membership and revenue, according to Pew’s latest factsheets on public broadcasting and podcasting, while podcast listenership continues to spike. 
  • Web traffic to nonprofit news sites grew by 43 percent and newsletter lists by 36 percent in 2021, according to the Institute for Nonprofit News’s annual report, signaling audiences’ increased interest. And nonprofit newsrooms’ revenue continued to grow, thanks to more support in individual giving and foundation funding, INN found. 
  • People aren’t turning to local newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations for answers to all their questions about their communities, the Reuters Institute found, which makes sense given the growth of social media and other sites to find local events, housing, and jobs. But the majority of American respondents do say that local media is the best place to look for information on local politics, coronavirus, and weather. 
  • Interviews with 60 people found that Americans of all political leanings found news media “fundamentally untrustworthy” no matter what news media they were talking about, but are relying on a range of sources to cross-check what is reported.

We’ve linked the reports and a few summaries below in case you want to dig in. These aren’t apples-to-apples studies but are still helpful in understanding how the work of local journalists contributes to some bigger picture trends. Plenty of reading for you while the Fix is on a break. 

Wishing you a safe and rest-filled week,
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.