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Do yourselves a favor

I started my very first NC Local newsletter — back on April 29, a couple of millenia ago — by asking something of you:
Never call it a day until you’ve done these things: 
  1. Helped somebody.
  2. Done something for your own wellness.
  3. Thought about the future. 
Because I’m not as good at those things as I’d like to be, I probably didn’t fully realize that the first two points are actually one. Doing one is doing the other. 

It’s my great fortune that in just the past two years, I’ve worked with three extraordinary leaders who do understand that: Robyn Tomlin at The News & Observer, Mebane Rash at EducationNC, and Melanie Sill at the NC Local News Workshop. They, and many others in our small band, know that we can better empower our communities when we empower one another, and care for ourselves. 

As 2020 ends, the swell of collaboration and mutual support across our state’s news and information community, even among competitors, is a fount of hope. To call it a necessary concession in a year of trial would be to diminish its spirit. And it has come during a time of unprecedented isolation, stress, fatigue and physical peril.

So, while you’re still on the job, getting your communities the information they need — to assess the COVID vaccine, to anticipate and influence how Biden/Harris policies might change their lives, and to stay safe over the holidays — do me one more favor:

Make time to take a really long, deep breath. And give yourself a pat on the back. 

➡️ ‘It’s a silent epidemic’: Mental health in newsrooms needs more attention. Jessica Davies, Digiday.
Summit registration is open

You can now register for The Power of Many: NC Local News Summit 2021. It's Wednesday, Jan. 13, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

North Carolina is home to some of local news’ biggest challenges and best innovators, along with a growing network of civic information allies and community stakeholders. Gather with us in the new year to make new connections, learn what others are doing, and brainstorm ways to build support and community around trustworthy local news as a civic good for North Carolina residents.

We’ll start with a morning social and continue with presentations, short talks and concurrent, participatory workshops, offering a chance to share and brainstorm together on successes, challenges, and opportunities.

The session is hosted by the NC Local News Workshop at Elon University with support from the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media.

➡️ Register now.
And while we're talking about the future...

Take your pick of the predictions for 2021 from various contributors collected by Nieman Lab, but perhaps the most provocative is Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli's Defund the Crime Beat“Let’s be honest: Crime coverage is terrible. It’s racist, classist, fear-based clickbait masking as journalism.” I'd like for us to discuss this topic in future newsletters, so please share your thoughts.

The collection also includes this piece by Duke’s Bill Adair on the future of fact checking, and this forecast by John Ketchum of the American Journalism Project that more journalists of color will launch newsrooms.

On Poynter, there’s also this hopeful conjecture on a sustainable future by Mike Donoghue of Subtext.

The watchdog won't stay on the porch
When Higher Ed Dive named The Daily Tar Heel the “Watchdog of the Year” in its Dive Awards 2020, it praised the “storied publication's muscle” in covering issues beyond the UNC-Chapel Hill campus — and indeed, The DTH has done courageous and valuable reporting in the past few months on COVID-19, the election, racism, sexual assault and disciplinary secrecy, and more.
So EIC Anna Pogarcic told me that in the spirit of self-care, The DTH was giving its team a bit of a break — going to three-day weeks during the extended break between semesters, and taking a full stop for two weeks starting this Friday “so our staff can rest for the holidays.”

“We usually step back entirely from publishing during winter break," she said, "but because our break is twice as long as usual, we didn't like the idea of leaving the UNC community without news during these times for that long.”


Also well done...

👏 You can learn a lot from what Bill Hand of the Sun Journal in New Bern did as he gave readers the kind of information they need to assess the COVID-19 vaccines, including:  👏 Also on the vaccine beat, Richard Stradling of The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun went beyond the press conference to give readers a fuller picture of how they will roll out: Your shot at a COVID vaccine in North Carolina could be months away, state says. And the NC Watchdog Reporting Network clarified the “delicate balancing act” involved: Who’s getting stuck first? Vaccine details in NC still unclear as first shipments arrive.

👏 An extraordinary interview by Travis Fain of WRAL: “NC senator OK with suspending civil liberties in wake of Trump's defeat.”

👏 Victoria Bouloubasis continues her deep and personal reporting on the struggles, and the resilience, of low-income, rural, undocumented Latino residents after a natural disaster, for Enlace Latino NC: Road to Recovery: After two years of systemic challenges, an immigrant family rebuilt their home destroyed by Hurricane Florence

News about the news

Triad City Beat, The News & Observer and The Alamance News have asked the state Court of Appeals to order the Alamance County courts to open their sessions to the public, or at least to news media.  

Their motion to expedite the request was denied, but that might not matter much, since state Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has decided that because of the COVID-19 surge, non-essential, in-person court proceedings will be postponed until mid-January.

Journalists from the three organizations were barred from attending a court hearing in Graham last week, and Alamance News publisher Tom Boney Jr. was handcuffed briefly in a hallway. The Society of Professional Journalists has joined the calls of support for the newsrooms.

   ➵ A record breaking number of journalists were arrested in the U.S. this year. A report by the Freedom of the Press Foundation.  
Bulletin board
Job postings
📌Report for America positions for 2021-22 are open in five North Carolina newsrooms.

📌Patterson professor, DeWitt Wallace Center, Duke University (reporters, editors, producers and newsroom leaders are invited to apply).

📌Applications are open for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting from the Shorenstein Center at Harvard, which honors “investigative reporting that best promotes more effective and ethical conduct of government, the making of public policy, or the practice of politics.” The top prize is $25,000, and five finalists get $10,000. [Apply.]

📌The 2020 Local Media Digital Innovation Awards will recognize local digital media in 15 categories. Each award has a sponsor, so entries are free. [Enter by Dec. 31.]

Free help
📌Poynter is offering a free online workshop series, A Journalist’s Guide to Covering Jails and Police Reform, over four weeks starting Jan. 12. [Learn more and apply.]
📌Nonprofit leaders: A new playbook has tips on increasing revenue from advertising, event sponsorships, sponsored content, and other sources: Google News Initiative and INN release Nonprofit News Guide to Earned Revenue
   ➵ BTW: Here are 5 Reasons That 2020 Was the Year of Nonprofit Local News, from Mark Glaser for the Knight Foundation.

Listen up

The new Work It podcast on WFAE, hosted by Stephanie Hale and Jill Bjers, brings “conversations with people about their relationship with their jobs and how it shapes their view of the world.” 

Its origin is distinctive. Work It made its debut Nov. 13 after the concept won the grand prize at WFAE’s Queen City PodQuest Academy, an eight-week virtual program to inspire and train aspiring podcasters. So far Hale and Bjers have looked at the role of pain in work and life, perspectives on success, people whose jobs make them experts on love (a great cold open on that one), obsession with jobs, and "home" work.

Bjers says the idea came from Hale, who's been chatting up people about their jobs since she started a new career after a divorce 15 years ago, and who also was inspired by Studs Terkel’s “Working.” Hale is in leadership development; Bjers says she has a “complicated relationship” with an airline job and identifies more with her volunteer work. 

Stories we often hear about people and their work “are about geniuses and millionaires,” Bjers told me. “Our podcast tries to show the beauty of regular people working regular jobs, people just like our listeners who are trying to balance the practicalities of making a living with the pressures to be ‘successful.’" She and Hale hope listeners will “reflect more deeply on their relationship with their jobs,” she said.

New episodes drop on Fridays. [Listen.]

   ➵ BTW: 2020 was a great year for podcasting. Now, about 2021... An overview from What's New in Publishing.

'... what stupidity will adequately explain'

Do the challenges of local journalism predate the internet and media conglomerates — and start with something much deeper and more basic?

You may not agree with Allison Hantschel, who worked at small newspapers before moving to "journalism adjacent" nonprofits, but her take is interesting, and maybe even instructive. Lyz interviewed Hantschel for her Substack newsletter, "Men Yell At Me": The Real Reason Local Newspapers are Dying
That's all for now. Thanks for being here, and I'll see you next week. Take care. 

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