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October 14, 2022

Local Fix: New Mexico local news fellowships gaining ground

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…

Submit your last session ideas of 2022

Calls for proposals are now out for one of the last journalism-adjacent conferences of 2022 and one of the first of 2023. OpenNews is hosting a special SRCCON event focused on care in journalism, online December 8 and 9, and the team is looking for your ideas on sessions and how you might want to participate. Then, at the end of January, Lenfest Institute’s News Philanthropy Network is holding a summit to talk about transforming fundraising for news, and they’re accepting pitches for sessions and speakers as well. We know folks out there have brilliant ideas to share for either or both of these events; give it a think!

In case you missed it: We have shared our updated strategy for our Public Square program at Democracy Fund. Read more in this post from senior director Josh Stearns about our focus on equitable journalism: “We believe we need to foster a reimagined local news and information landscape and an explicitly anti-racist public square, led by people who have historically been marginalized in our media and our democracy.”
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Local news fellowships gaining ground in New Mexico (and beyond)

Editor’s Note: In the second part of our guest writer series this fall (here’s the first), we’re passing the mic to Rashad Mahmood and Diana Alba Soular. At the New Mexico Local News Fund, they run a number of innovative programs to support the New Mexico local news ecosystem. Ecosystems are the core of how we approach our local news work at Democracy Fund. This fall we are bringing you tangible examples from regions across the U.S. where people are putting in the work to build systemic responses to the local news crisis. Now up: Rashad and Diana!

The biggest strength of any newsroom is its team of journalists who are doing the day-to-day work of keeping their communities informed and empowered.

But we frequently hear from publishers and broadcasters that there is a disconnect between newsrooms trying to fill employee vacancies and the recent college graduates who’d be most likely to fill them. In particular, hiring managers would prefer candidates with more on-the-job experience than most newly minted grads have. And graduates, though eager for a chance at those entry-level jobs, may lack the confidence or full skillsets that would help them thrive in the roles.

Enter into the picture a workforce development initiative we set in place four years ago. Known as the New Mexico Local News Fellowships & Internships Program, this pairs recent college graduates (or students, in the case of the internships) with local newsrooms across the state. Thanks to support from Democracy Fund and our other funders, the New Mexico Local News Fund pays the fellows’ salaries for nine months.

In just a few years, the fellowships program has been a resounding success. Most of the fellows have gone on to get permanent journalism jobs in New Mexico, rather than leaving the state for opportunities elsewhere — or leaving the profession altogether. Two thirds of the fellows have been young people of color, and several have told us that without this fellowship, they never would have been able to build careers in journalism. 

It turns out this disconnect between local news organizations and recent grads is taking place in other states, too. Earlier this year, Rashad had an opportunity to share the details of NMNLF’s efforts with a group in California that had the same problem. That group was ultimately successful in its pursuits: The California Legislature has allocated $25 million to the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism to launch a fellowship program for journalists in that state.

This move is important for several reasons:

  1. It shows there is widespread interest among decision-makers to counter the erosion of local news. It recognizes the value local news provides for our society and our democracy.
  2. It demonstrates interest on a larger scale in a model that has been shown to work in our own state and for organizations like Report for America, which also invests in placing journalists in newsrooms.
  3. This represents a significant, direct investment in local news —  it’s precedent-setting. This last point, in particular, will be crucial to local news nationwide, as efforts by stakeholders to seek public financial support for local news continue to gain traction.

Since last year, NMLNF has been working to develop a proposal to put forward to the New Mexico Legislature that would seek funding to not only maintain our own journalism fellowships program, but expand upon it by incorporating other fields, like business and computer science, that will also be critical to newsrooms’ success moving forward. Our efforts are in progress, but we hope to build a strong coalition of journalism and nonprofit groups and lawmakers around the state. To learn more, contact Rashad at rashad@nmlocalnews.org

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On our radar



  • Program coordinator, growth programs, Institute for Nonprofit News, remote full time, salary of $48k-$55k with benefits; app deadline unspecified 
  • Grant writer, High Country News, remote part-time (10 hrs/week) freelance contract, $45-$50/hr, apps close Oct 27

Events (Christine will be at both! Say hi if you’re around)

Have a pleasant weekend,

Christine & Pinay
(Pinay is our new intern! More to come about her in our next issue.)

Follow the New Mexico Local News Fund here

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.
Follow us on Twitter at @TheLocalNewsLab.

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