Local Fix: Geolocation, Comics and Going Indie


Welcome to the Local Fix. Each week we’ll look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. Each week we’ll look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. Sign up to get the Local Fix delivered each week.

Over on LocalNewsLab.org this week we looked at what coffee can teach us about building local news networks. We are just getting started, so feedback is welcomed and encouraged. Leave a comment to send tips and suggestions (or just to say hello). 

Here is One Good Idea: Make school budgets understandable. KPCC in LA created a good, simple resource for parents to see how their school was planning to spend the $4.6 billion LA school budget.

Beyond the Funny Pages: Engaging new audiences with graphic journalism

Everyone loves the funny pages, but today digital journalists are doing amazing work with hard hitting graphic journalism that immerses audiences in the story. Writing in Nieman Reports this month Erin Polgreen, the founder of Symbolia (an iPad magazine of illustrated reporting) argued that comics can “enhance reader engagement and bring new audiences to narrative nonfiction.” And if needed proof of that, just check out the incredible new graphic novel published by the Center for Investigative Reporting last week. The Box is based on an investigation by CIR, and tells the story of a teen in solitary confinement. ProPublica also used illustrations recently to show people how kids were being physically detained in schools and comics journalist Susie Cagle often gets huge page views for her reporting at Medium. On a lighter note, WHYY just launched a great summer comic series on their Newsworks blog.

Want to explore a graphic story for your site or just experiment with adding more illustrations to your reporting? Just reply to this email and I can connect you with a number of terrific illustrators who have worked with newsrooms large and small.

You Are Here: The potential for geolocation in local news

Over at Fast Company, Gary Jeanfaivre looks at the potential of geolocated news. The piece focuses on the refreshed Breaking News app, which will send you relevant news alerts based on your location. Jeanfaivre notes, “At the local level, news consumers are increasingly relying on local alerts directly from municipal sources,” and suggests “The possibility of pulling all that noise together and pushing it out through a local news app could be a big opportunity for a local player.” But using geolocation lets you target news as well as ads of course. Street Fight has a round-up of “five self-serve solutions for creating location-targeted mobile offers.” See also Poynter’s 2010 guide to geolocation opportunities for newsrooms.

Beyond geolocation, Wired’s Matt Honan says “notifications about about to rule the smartphone interface” and these three sites are trying to use that to their advantage.

Deep Into Local: How single issue sites and deep beats can serve readers

Last week I wrote about how local news sites can find your community’s “topic love.” This week, the American Press Institute talked with Lara Setrakian of Syria Deeply, who believes that going deep on one topic is the best way to serve two ends of the audience spectrum: passionate fans of the topic and newcomers who need an “all-in-one explainer.” To cover the Syria story Setrakian weaves together original reporting with data journalism, maps, citizen reports, video and more. Jay Rosen has outlined a design for this kind of networked beat (a fast-moving, ongoing global news story that cuts across traditional beat boundaries) with concrete tools and steps. Sites like Syria Deeply and Homicide Watch are proving that ongoing deep, focused reporting can serve the public and drive traffic, especially when it is focused on a specific geographic area.

Both Homicide Watch and the News Deeply platforms are available for licensing. Also, read more about other new ideas for approaching beats.

Going Indie: Two very different revenue models for independent news sites

When Andrew Sullivan left the Daily Beast to start his stand-alone site, a lot was made about the potential for journalists going it alone. But on the local level, going it alone is a common story, and this week there were two interesting, very different examples. Michael Dinan was a senior regional editor for Patch before he was laid off in the wave of cutbacks this spring. After the lay-offs, Dinan, like many others, set up his own independent site and he talked with Street Fight about how it is going and why he thinks he’ll be profitable by the end of year-one. While Dinan is relying almost exclusively on ads, in Canada Tim Bousquet is betting on a paywall for his site. With a range of membership levels and a narrow focus on “local politics, long-term investigations and media analysis” he’s relying on his community to fund the entire operation. J-Source has a follow up interview with Bousquet. See also Ken Doctor’s deep dive into how two European sites are using crowd funding to support new independent news projects.

Street Fight notes “Despite Many New Local News Sites, ‘Media Deserts’ Are a Stubborn Reality


The Local Fix is a project of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s Local News Lab, a website where we are exploring creative experiments in journalism sustainability. Let us know what you are testing in your community. Write to jstearns@grdodge.org or send a note on Twitter to @jcstearns

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