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August 19, 2022

Local Fix: 3 local elections coverage examples you can use

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Welcome to the Local Fix. Every other 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…

Building civic media (and $ to do it!)

Listening Post Collective just shared this stellar guide that includes everything from how to gather data about your community’s information needs to tips to engage with people via texts and live events to creating content that highlights diverse experiences and prioritizes accountability. Easy peasy, right? 🙂 Well, definitely easier thanks to this guide. Along with the guide, LPC is also offering the opportunity to apply for coaching and micro-grants of $500 or $5,000 to put some of these ideas into practice. Enroll in the course and see if you’re eligible for a micro-grant here
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3 smart examples of local elections coverage

Election season is in full swing with most — but not all — of the primaries across the U.S. behind us and the general election coming up in November. There’s a lot more to local journalism and civic engagement than just elections, but local election coverage is an important public service that robust local media can provide. Local journalists around the country are building out more ways to communicate with their readers and listeners about how they’re doing that work. We pulled a few examples out below, but let us know if there’s something you’re proud of with your local election coverage and we may feature it in a future Local Fix: 

Wyofile’s Mission Statement: Trusting News’ Lynn Walsh recently outlined how newsrooms such as WyoFile are developing and sharing their mission statement for election coverage. WyoFile pledged to “cover forums and debates throughout the election cycle so you know the issues candidates are prioritizing and their answers to pressing questions…investigate big campaign donors to understand what interests might help decide races and influence how they govern….[and] be transparent about our approach and answer readers’ questions about how we cover politics and why,” followed by a link to submit a question, among other points of coverage. A recent newsletter explained why they chose to spell it out in this way: “Since WyoFile’s politics reporters Maggie Mullen and Mike Koshmrl live and breathe politics, it can be hard for them to decipher what parts of the election process feel murky for reluctant voters. So we’re asking for reader input.” 

The Texas Tribune Answers Questions: The Texas Tribune also recently shared what readers can expect from their elections coverage, from the Tribune’s process for explaining the voting process, to covering misinformation, to choosing which races to cover. “‘Why are you covering that race and not this one? Why haven’t you reported more about third-party candidates? Why don’t you have election results for my city council race?’ The answers to these questions aren’t simple — but as readers, you deserve answers so that you can hold us accountable,” the Tribune’s staff wrote.

North Carolina’s Ecosystem Shares Tips: Just as it’s important to explain to followers why your newsroom is approaching elections the way that it is, it’s helpful to make sure other members of the local news ecosystem have a united front. The North Carolina Local News Workshop recently brought together experts and practitioners to discuss tips on centering democracy in local reporters’ essential responsibilities. Read the NC Local Newsletter for some takeaways for anyone, even if you’re not in NC. The Workshop’s next session, on August 30, will focus on the nuts and bolts of elections administration. (If you’re in North Carolina you can sign up here.)

Inspired by these examples? Here are a few things you can still do to make local elections understandable

  • Make a mission statement for your elections coverage, and share it with your audience (and ask for feedback!). Take tips from Lynn’s post here.
  • Join the collaboration behind Democracy Day and publish a freely accessible piece of journalism about democracy in the U.S. on September 15.
  • If you’re not in a newsroom, you could check out how to serve as a poll worker here, following this week’s National Pollworker Recruitment Day.
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Still in disbelief that it’s already August,

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.

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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