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January 20, 2023

Local Fix: 3 tools for a successful local news operation

Welcome to the Local Fix. Every so often 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…

Putting the “fun” in fundraising

In our last Local Fix of 2022, we highlighted the collaborative fundraising experiment between El Tímpano, Documented, and Enlace Latino NC as a standout approach to NewsMatch. The end-of-year campaign is still tallying up the donation results — but while we wait, INN has compiled more creative examples from the 320 participating newsrooms. For example, Tone Madison in Wisconsin made an album of local musicians’ work available for purchase, and Shasta Scout in northern California shared a highly detailed account of the growing outlet’s annual budget, earning trust from readers. Way to go! 
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Supplies for a successful local news business

As we head deeper into 2023, it’s not too late to set some intentions for the year. Maybe you’re thinking about improving your organization’s diversity, or shoring up your insurance options, and/or tracking your impact in new ways. All of these are important elements to growing a local news operation that’s sustainable in multiple ways. Good news: There are several new resources available to help think through making it happen.

Diversity audit: If you want to improve the diversity of your newsroom or local news ecosystem, it’s important to know where you’re starting from. The North Carolina Local News Workshop and UNC’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media partnered to survey the state’s newsrooms in 2022 and just released their findings and tips for others to take on a similar project. Eric Frederick of NC Local rounded up the relevant links (including recordings of two explainers) here.

Media liability insurance: You never know when you might need it, as demonstrated by four newsrooms highlighted in this case study from Elise Czajkowski and INN. See how insurance made a crucial difference for local newsrooms like East Lansing Info and Nancy on Norwalk, and make sure to check out the Q&A with a media insurance broker in that case study: “Applications for media liability insurance are long and nuanced. But the questions that the policy application asks are a good guideline. Make sure you’ve implemented that stuff, like making sure you have contracts with your independent contractors.” 

Impact tracking: “We believe that Bay City News has had a tremendous impact since our founding in 1979… But how do we prove it, measure it and document it?” Bay City News isn’t the only local newsroom that has grappled with this dilemma. Thanks to Impact Architects, there’s now a publicly available impact tracker for that. Kat Rowlands of Bay City News laid out how her organization has been using IA’s tracker to record mentions of its reporting in a grand jury report and the Oakland mayor’s newsletter, as well as an organizer’s gratitude for the outlet’s housing development coverage as they planned rallies.

Is there something else you’re finding helpful as you lay out your plans for the year? Let us know! 

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On our radar


Jobs, professional development, & funding

Events & other opportunities

Stay cozy,

Christine & Pinay

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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