Welcome to the Local Fix. Each week we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. But first, we always begin with one good idea...
One Good Idea: Partner With Parents on Education Coverage
This week we got to meet Cynthia Perez, executive director of the Hispanic Families Network, a project at the Dallas Morning News that enlists local parents to help cover education issues. The project is deeply community driven and focuses on producing reporting in English and Spanish, online and in-print. Importantly, the project doesn't only train parents in journalism skills, but also has helped expand the newsroom's skills in working with the community. This kind of project is very replicable in other communities. You can read an early profile of the project at Nieman Lab and at the Knight Foundation website.
New Report: Lessons and Advice for Native Advertising
Michele McLellan, one of the longest running chroniclers of hyperlocal news, just released an important new study on how digital news organizations are experimenting with native ads. The report is a helpful guide for anyone considering native ads at their publication and offers an array of useful case studies and best practices. The study doesn't draw lessons only from local news but instead collects ideas from across the media landscape. It also takes a long look at the concerns of federal regulators, potential for new revenue and issues of trust with your audience.
New Report: Build Audience and Relevancy Through Engagement
Monica Guzman, a 2016 Nieman Fellow and columnist for the Seattle Times, CJR and others, released a terrific new report on community engagement. Guzman helpfully begins by defining the terms of the debate - engagement, audience, community and others - and draws on concrete examples, mostly from local newsrooms around the country. She shows clearly how smart engagement strategies are helping shift newsrooms towards more community support and strengthening the reporting process. She writes that for journalism "the real product is the relationship” between newsrooms and communities. "At its most powerful, engagement is not a layer to add on top of conventional journalistic practice, but a firmer foundation that links journalism more closely with the people it aims to serve." But one of the best things about Guzman's report is how concretely and immediately useful it is for newsrooms of any size.
A few weeks ago Josh Benton of NiemanLab wrote about how new digital journalism jobs are concentrated in a few big cities on the coasts and how that shapes the kind of reporting that is being produced. "America is a big, highly distributed place," Benton wrote, "Our democracy is structured around cities and counties and congressional districts and states. Our media used to be too." Adam Regusea of Current's "The Pub" podcast responded to Benton in a recent episode telling journalism students to "Go where you are needed." When I talk to journalists who have left big newsrooms to start new local reporting projects off the beaten path, that idea of going where they are needed, of serving people who have been left out of much of our national conversation, is often top of mind. Below are a few profiles of one and two person newsrooms, and how these tiny newsrooms are tackling revenue, engagement and innovation.