A project of Democracy Fund

August 6, 2021

Lessons from the Local Fix: Farewell, Areeba!

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: Did you really mean to say it that way?

The way we use our words can have a lasting effect. That’s why it’s important to think about the phrases and jargon we use regularly. Take a look at this Sincerely, Leaders of Color column by Tony Elkins, which explains how language can be exclusionary and alienate those who don’t understand the meaning behind certain phrases or, even worse, can have racist or misogynistic meanings. Elkins shares tips on how to create an inclusive environment where people feel comfortable flagging words they don’t understand, and how to let others know when they use words with hurtful undertones.

Reflecting on the lessons learned from the Local Fix

Editor’s note: This week Areeba Shah is taking the lead to share her reflections from her near-year as the intern on Democracy Fund’s Public Square program. While we’re sad to see her go, we’re excited for her next adventure and grateful for all her partnership on the Local Fix. Follow her @areebashah_ to stay in touch!

When I first started writing and editing for the Local Fix almost a year ago, I was still grappling with the limits of “objectivity” in reporting and questioning the role journalists played in serving their communities. My education and experiences as a reporter had led me to believe that telling powerful stories came at a steep personal cost of remaining detached from the individuals you were covering. But 27 Local Fix editions later, and after digging deeper into some of the lessons offered by ecosystem builders, I’ve begun to rethink the role journalism should play. 

At the heart of impactful storytelling lies a deep sense of connection between the writer and person whose story they are telling. In order to get to this place, reporters have to build trust among the communities they are covering and engage with their audiences on a deeper level. In the past editions of the Fix, I’ve reflected on the work local reporters are doing to center the needs of marginalized groups and fill vital information gaps for those who lack access to information. Some projects that have inspired me, like Media 2070, are uprooting racism and reimagining the purpose of journalism to accurately reflect America’s multiracial democracy. Instead of knocking on doors when violence breaks out, journalists have shown up for their communities from the beginning. Others have shifted their work to focus on people in specific ZIP codes, like Before Ferguson Beyond Ferguson, which shines a light on the unequal impact of COVID-19 by unearthing stories of those impacted in St. Louis City. These initiatives alone are changing how different communities are part of journalism, and have inspired me as I’ve written and read about them. 

Learning about this work over the past 11 months has made it clear that real change isn’t going to be just limited to one project, but yearslong efforts and initiatives that pave the way for racial justice and equity. As I wrap up my internship today, I’ll be taking some of these lessons with me as I continue to reflect on how journalism can meet the needs of those who are most marginalized. The links below are just some of the pieces that have helped me think about this, and maybe could help you too. But before I leave, I’d like to thank the journalists who are on the ground doing this work and the ecosystem builders who are sharing their wisdom with the rest of us. 

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

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.