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February 17, 2023

Local Fix: The power of ecosystem building

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…

Learn from the research

How lucky are we that there are researchers testing, exploring, analyzing, and sharing different findings about our field? This week Christine is at a workshop hosted by UNC and Duke for local journalism researchers, nerding out on all kinds of presentations from organizational structures to community accountability and DEI to policy approaches for local news. Have you taken a moment lately to learn from some of the work that researchers are sharing about local news? Here are a few pieces to get started. Let us know what stands out to you or makes you wonder!

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The power of ecosystem building

By Sarah Gustavus Lim

Before I launched what is now the New Mexico Local News Fund, I’d worked as a public radio and TV producer for nearly a decade in Albuquerque and had collaborated with other journalists across the state on past projects. I could have created a new outlet to produce news stories, but I had a different idea in 2018. I’d heard about the idea of starting an organization that would instead serve as a center of gravity for strengthening the local news ecosystem.

We weren’t the first hub, but the idea was new enough that I spent most of the first year explaining why this type of organization should even exist. Not everyone I met with was on board with the idea of investing in both existing local media outlets and non-traditional strategies for meeting the news and information needs of New Mexicans. Some were willing to have a conversation but didn’t know what it would look like our first year as we launched an early career fellowship and funded collaborative reporting.

In the first year, I was the only person working on the New Mexico Local News Fund and I wasn’t even doing that full-time. I wanted the maximum dollars to go to support journalism in New Mexico, so I kept my full-time job and worked on NMLNF in every spare hour, from my lunch breaks to nights and weekends.

There were so many things that I had to figure out, from finding a fiscal sponsor to setting priorities for programming and, yes, eventually hiring a team. What helped me the most was the support of other Ecosystem Leaders who were doing the same thing in other places like North Carolina, Colorado, Chicago, New Jersey, and more.

Ecosystem building should look different in each community, state or region. It must be responsive to the unique history and needs of that place. At the same time, some of the shared challenges are the same — identifying the most high impact investments, creating a new team, and finding funding to sustain an ecosystem hub. Now, four years after launching NMLNF, there is a group of peers that compare notes and offer camaraderie every other month or so in our regular calls as Ecosystem Leaders.

This is an excerpt from one of three posts explaining the process of building a local news ecosystem hub. See the links below for the full posts. If you’d like to learn more in a call with Sarah or Christine and potentially join the Ecosystem Leaders calls, please fill out this form

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On our radar



Have a good weekend,

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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