A project of Democracy Fund

October 29, 2021

Local Fix: Do we need another journalism credential?


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: “Do you have any questions for me?”

This is how each reporting interview should start, Wudan Yan of The Writers’ Co-Op suggested on Twitter last week. We’ve seen many discussions lately on how much access sources should have in the reporting process, and we appreciate this honest way to start from a shared understanding of how the interview is part of the journalist’s work and build relationships that are less extractive.

Do we need another journalism credential?

Move past the pipeline myth: It’s clear that journalism has a credentialing problem. An article in Nieman Lab this month shared how people are blocked by entering the journalism field or advancing without extensive networks or savings to fall back on — so they often sign up for expensive masters’ degrees: “The more that journalism is reserved to an elite, the less representative it is of the country we live in — and the easier it is for everyone else not to trust us.” One solution the article proposes is to create new kinds of certification programs for journalists. But a lively discussion on Twitter followed about the ways there can be programs to support journalists without certificates in the first place, and that there are many of them out there already. Here are a few ideas and examples that resonated with us and that are worth checking out: 

  • “Professionalization of journalism is part of the reason the field is so wholly unrepresentative. We need alternatives for *Journalism*—new participatory info infrastructure. More credentials toward a failing system won’t fix the system.” — Darryl Holliday, City Bureau
  • “My favorite news nerd survey data point is that half of respondents had neither a journalism nor a CS degree! … Why not expand what it means to work in journalism?” — Erika Owens, OpenNews
  • “We’re piloting a variation on this idea at @JournoDesign with community colleges, which are already places to get lower-cost journalism training. Our six-week certificate program with @CCPedu, “Community Journalism for Civic Power,” kicked off this week…. The goal here is to offer low-barrier ways for more people to learn core journalism skills that can help strengthen local info ecosystems + civic participation.” — Cole Goins, Journalism+Design

Reads on Our Radar

Opportunities On Our Radar 

Have a nice weekend,

Christine and Teresa
@heres_christine and @gteresa

The Local Fix is a project of  Democracy Fund’s Public Square Program, which supports work that aims to transform journalism so everyone has access to information they need to participate in our democracy. 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.
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