A project of Democracy Fund

November 12, 2021

Local Fix: Moving at the speed of trust in Cleveland


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: How to write better alt-text

“Flower”, or “yellow sunflower with a dark brown center reaching toward the sun and surrounded by other sunflowers in a lush green field”? If you’re using a screen-reader to read images, it’s not hard to imagine how the second description gives you a much better sense of what’s in the image. Hannah Wise shared three tips for writing better alt-text in this helpful piece for the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Want to go deeper into understanding accessibility challenges your audience could face? Check out Empathy Prompts, which collects points to consider when making things for other people to use, as well as the National Center on Disability and Journalism’s tipsheets for publishing accessible content.  

Ohio’s big news (ecosystem)

In spring 2020, when Cleveland Plain Dealer journalists faced layoffs, the whole community felt the impact. “All of this knowledge is lost, and these deep, important relationships have been severed for an unknown goal,” wrote a local nonprofit leader in support of the journalists, according to CJR. “What an utter, utter loss for all of Cleveland.” But this didn’t spell the end of local journalism in Cleveland. Behind the scenes, a group of Ohioans had been working for years, even before those layoffs, to increase support for community-centered local news and learn from other regions’ experiences transforming their local news ecosystems.

This week, a collaboration of Cleveland-rooted foundations and the American Journalism Project announced plans to create a 25-person nonprofit newsroom to serve the metro area and beyond. Over $5.8 million is committed to the effort already. The group intentionally “moved at the speed of trust”, as other philanthropic efforts have often cited, by building relationships in different communities to understand information needs, learning from models like the Cleveland Documenters, and forming a coalition of supporters. The research team spoke to over 130 people in interviews and focus groups that represented a cross-section of the region and assessed the existing reporting resources and non-traditional information sources. “If we remember, going way back [to] a more [local news] robust ecosystem in general, there used to be many more places where you could write, see yourselves,” Cleveland Foundation’s Dale Anglin told Ideastream. “We want to almost reinvent that a little bit. It’s, ‘Can we add to the ecosystem?’” (P.S. — they’ve just started hiring.) 

To see what the researchers found, or to be inspired to consider a similar effort in your community, check out these pieces: (And full disclosure, many of the organizations we mention in this newsletter, and that are involved in this effort, have received funding from Democracy Fund in the past. Teresa serves on the board of AJP.)

Reads on Our Radar

Opportunities On Our Radar 

Thanks to Joe, Cierra, and John for sending some of these links our way! We’re always eager to hear from folks what else should be on our radar. The Local Fix will be back in your inbox on December 3.

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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