A project of Democracy Fund

July 16, 2021

Local Fix: Four ways local journalists can build better relationships in disinvested communities


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: Checklists for Better Reporting

Meeting deadlines for stories can be a stressful experience, especially when you’re new to reporting. But Julie Patel Liss has just the checklist to look through when drafting and filing a story. From inquiring about the diversity of sources to thinking about SEO keywords, this 14 question guide addresses the key elements of reporting a thorough story. For another helpful checklist to check the accuracy of a story under a tight deadline, print out this NPR guide from 2015, or these others we shared back in 2019 when we extolled the power of a good checklist.  

Trust in Journalism Starts From Listening to Your Community

In a new study, the Center for Media Engagement partnered with the Dallas Free Press, a nonprofit newsroom launched in 2020, to understand how residents in West Dallas and South Dallas viewed local media and how the media could better serve their communities. Focusing on two disinvested communities, one that is predominantly Hispanic and another that is largely Black, the research team analyzed Dallas news consumption habits and information needs to inform the creation of a new local media collaborative. Participants shared that news coverage of their communities inaccurately represented their area, and did not meet their expectations. The study proposes four approaches journalists can take to bridge the gap between newsrooms and local residents: develop genuine relationships in the community, not just parachuting in to cover bad news; be fair and consistent in specifying the race of a suspect and in quoting people living in the community; serve as a community resource by reporting where residents can get help for local problems; and remember to show empathy, such as imagining the situation impacting someone in their family so the story is told in a more human oriented way. This study is a helpful deep dive into one area that can also inform your own. Below we’ve curated a few more recent articles that share similar tips and ideas. 

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

P.S. Are you interested in working with the team behind the Local Fix — or know someone who is? Apply for Democracy Fund Public Square program’s nine month paid internship to join the team starting in September.  

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.