Local that Works spotlights innovative and replicable content, engagement and revenue initiatives at public radio and TV stations and nonprofit and digital news organizations in the U.S. LTW includes an annual contest (deadline: August 23) and a database (below). LTW produces webinars that offer insights into projects and organizations that are reshaping local civic journalism.
Explore the database of 400+ Local that Works projects. Check out Local that Works contest Winners, Finalists and Semifinalists by clicking on those colored tags.
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The New Jersey Sustainability Reporting project is a statewide news collaborative spearheaded by CivicStory. It generates local news stories about sustainability issues and actions required to resolve the climate crisis. Through 6-month fellowships, early to mid-career journalists report for diverse New Jersey newsrooms and help citizens shift from day-to-day thinking to longer-term consideration of the needs, health, and wellbeing of future generations.
Resettled is a six-part podcast series that explores the complex resettlement process through the perspectives of refugees. The podcast team included two former journalists from Afghanistan and a poet and social entrepreneur from Iraq who had experienced resettlement themselves and offered valuable insight. Working with local nonprofits, VPM held a series of storytelling workshops in the community and recorded at booths during international festivals around the state.
Kansas City PBS creates “Zoom juries” as a novel approach to engaging citizens on critical pandemic related issues. In ‘Justice Deferred’ we partnered with area courts to examine what it will take to restart criminal jury trials suspended since stay-at-home orders went into effect in March.
Sahan Journal, an independent, nonprofit news site in partnership with MPR News, serves the immigrant and refugee populations of Minnesota with professional journalism centered on immigrant lives, voices, and experiences. It has been publishing essential pandemic coverage in Hmong, Somali, and Spanish, in order to be accessible to the three largest immigrant groups in the state.
WCMU is re-imagining local journalism by creating partnerships with rural newspapers to produce content and at the same time train J students in broadcast, print and internet story telling. We are harnessing the reach of a public radio network and the local strength of community newspapers to provide an outstanding product, remind news consumers about the value of local news, and give small papers much-needed boots on the ground during a time when contractions in the industry are threatening their existence.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the KPCC-LAist newsroom has invited questions from its audience. Nearly 4,000 people have written in and in answering the questions, we have found new sources, new stories and new audiences, and more than half of the participants have opted into newsletters.
Tax Increment Financing districts (TIFs) divert billions of public property tax dollars from local units of government across the USA annually. This is a secretive and corrupt process that sends public dollars to private developers with virtually no grassroots input or evaluation. This is a national story with unlimited local news hooks. It is part of a larger conversation on local economic development, economic and racial justice, government accountability and crass corruption (or, as we say, in Chicago, “pay to play” politics), and it offers rich opportunities for civic engagement, journalism and and volunteer-driven research.
The New Orleans Public Radio newsletter is a guide to being an informed, engaged and happy citizen of New Orleans. It speaks to the reader like a friend, offering the latest news, things to do, the weather report, chances to engage directly with reporters and a reminder that our work is made possible by their support.
We gathered a diverse group of West Virginians to discuss their information needs, how the community can be involved in the growth of our startup newsroom and what gaps exist in the media ecosystem that Mountain State Spotlight can fill. We held two conversations through Zoom with 21 participants from all over the state with different political leanings and different life experiences so that we can build a newsroom to serve all West Virginians.
New Jersey Sustainability Reporting Project
The New Jersey Sustainability Reporting (NJSR) project began in January 2019 at Montclair State University’s Center for Cooperative Media as a collaborative effort among representatives from nine local environmental nonprofits. We shared the goal of supporting new forms of news to address our worsening environmental crisis and, together, create a plan for the future NJSR Hub. This plan included training eight journalism fellows from geographically diverse New Jersey newsrooms; launching a website to aggregate and archive the stories and a newsletter highlighting our multimedia stories; engaging content distribution partners including higher education institutions to help reach a combined audience exceeding those of the newsrooms.
We hired a project manager and began recruiting newsrooms in May 2019. Two months later, we interviewed and selected our eight reporting fellows. In August, we finalized our letters of understanding with the seven participating newsrooms and held three training and orientation days. The fellows began reporting in September, and in November, we launched website with our first 12 stories, and sent out the first newsletter to 2,900 CivicStory subscribers.
Our news editors committed to publishing sustainability stories in return for a stipend of $4,000 which was paid directly to the newsrooms. They were responsible for producing 10-12 print stories or 6-8 video or audio segments. Each newsroom retained their editorial independence and were not obligated to post each other’s content. CivicStory and the NJSR Hub project director communicated regularly with the fellows about story ideas and progress. By the end of the pilot phase in February 2020, we had a total of 59 stories posted to our website. The number had grown to more than 100 by late August.
We started SRHub because we found that news coverage of sustainability issues often fails to match the scale and urgency of our global ecological crises. Citizens need to know how they impact the climate and what they can do to prevent these crises from worsening right at home. Daily news plays a key role in conveying this information and engaging diverse audiences. As the most densely populated state and a birthplace of U.S. industry, we believe New Jersey has important sustainability stories to tell.
Since starting the NJSR Hub project, we have seen a measurable impact on sustainability coverage in our state. Our newsroom editors have cited the fellowship program as the impetus for reporting stories that otherwise would not have been told. There has also been a higher prevalence of front-page sustainability stories across our partner organizations and increased knowledge about the topic on the part of our fellows. We have also partnered successfully with The College of New Jersey, where a spring 2020 journalism and computer science course focused on our work and a student intern developed both a tagging system and interactive map that rolled in Fall 2020.
The NJ Sustainability Reporting project has generated $38,500 in revenue to date. It has received $3,000 in sponsorship from businesses; four foundation grants totaling $23,000; a total of $7,500 from the NJSR Hub founding partners ($2,500 each from CivicStory, the Center for Cooperative Media, and Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education); and $5,000 from crowdsourcing.