Local News on the Frontline of Democracy

Source The International Press Institute

Local journalism is under threat, yet newsrooms are adapting through innovation


Media www.rajawalisiber.com – Local journalism is under threat: Newsrooms are closing and shedding reporters, meaning there are fewer watchdogs keeping local officials honest. This is how Scott Kraft, editor-at-large at the Los Angeles Times and moderator of this panel on local news at the IPI World Congress 2022, introduced the session.

Local news is on the frontline, holding business, politicians, even non-profits, to account, according to Kraft. Despite challenges, many newsrooms are stepping up to the challenge.

Outlier Media, a community-first media startup in Detroit, is trying to redefine what news can and should be. “We want to provide an essential service. We aren’t trying to cover crises, but to prevent crises. This is what our community needs”, according to Sarah Alvarez, the outlet’s founder and editor-in-chief. “What we’ve made easier is participation: we’ve made that process much more transparent. “

In South Africa, The Sowetan is a national outlet that focuses on local communities, going hyperlocal, yet telling those stories with an understanding that the experience is shared across South Africa.

URL Media is scaling community journalism by creating a network of brown and black media organizations in the U.S. and finding for-profit ways to fund them. Founder S. Mitra Kalita built this project to provide service journalism to communities and leverages innovative business strategy to do this. An organically developed B2B recruitment and executive search arm of the business is now a majority part of their revenue.

Kalita’s closing message: newsrooms need to share more about how companies make payroll each month, and to share these ideas across the community of local journalism outlets.

Sewell Chan, editor-in-chief of Texas Tribune, is inspired by the creativity of other local journalism outlets in reaching audiences. During a winter storm in 2021, the Texas Tribune created a text messaging service to answer people’s questions directly.

However, Chan is fearful of a further collapse of local news and its impact on democracy: “The collapse of local media has been associated with more corruption, lower engagement, more polarization, diminished trust, and even higher taxes because there are fewer watch dogs.

Alvarez aptly noted that it’s scary for nonprofit newsrooms to take big swings, but critical to serving communities. “We want to help make Detroit a place where people can educate their families…we use the narrow tools we have to do this”, she said.

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