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The power of many

We're now only a week away from the first NC Local News Summit, where we'll make connections, share experiences, hear diverse perspectives and brainstorm ideas to better serve and empower our communities through healthy sources of news and information. There's still time for you to join (more on that below).

The summit's headline is "The Power of Many," and the power will come not just from an impressive group of speakers and discussion leaders grounded in North Carolina, but from the participants, sharing their insights and ideas in breakout workshops and in new and renewed connections.

More on the summit, including the lineup of speakers and discussion leaders, is in this post on the Workshop blog.

One speaker is Anika Anand, a UNC grad living in Seattle who's deputy director of LION Publishers. She's also a team member on one of the most promising initiatives out there to support local news and community needs — the Tiny News Collective.

The collective is a partnership between LION, the association for local independent online news organizations, and News Catalyst, which provides tech tools to newsrooms. Its mission is to help launch sustainable local news organizations that reflect and serve their communities by making their costs manageable.

Here’s how: The group will share an open-source content management system, a newsletter platform, a website and training, plus mutual support and LION membership, with startup news outlets that are expected to pay about $100 per month for all of those services. It hopes to include libel insurance and help with accounting, legal services, payroll and administration. 

The collective plans to launch 10 local news outlets by April and 500 in the next three years, at least half of them in underserved communities, and with founders who are underrepresented in the industry. The newsrooms will start as nonprofit LLCs, with the hope that they will become healthy, independent companies.

There’s also this: Founders aren't required to have experience in entrepreneurship or journalism.

You can learn more here. If you’re interested in founding a news organization, or want to nominate someone else, fill out one of the forms at this page.
Another opportunity ...
LION and the Google News Initiative, building on research done with UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, are launching a six-month “startups lab” to help a selected group of independent digital publishers in North America become sustainable. The lab will provide diagnosis of the organization's financial health, consultation and one-on-one coaching, and funding for experiments to generate revenue. [Learn more.] [Apply by Jan. 21.]
... and where opportunities are turning to progress

News and information providers in North Carolina are getting better at knowing what communities need, and in tough times they’re reaching out — to their communities, to one another and to untapped sources — to meet those needs, says Lizzy Hazeltine, fund coordinator for the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund. She sees a lot of work still to do, but many "glimmers of hope" across the state, including fruit from investments by the fund, which also supports the NC Local News Workshop, the home of this newsletter and host of next week's summit.

[Read her take on what’s happening.]
Join the summit

So ... join us Wednesday, Jan. 13, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., for the summit, a Zoom gathering presented by the NC Local News Workshop with support from the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media.  
[Learn more.] [Register.]

Well done

A lot of good work around the state to start the new year...

👏“The faces displayed in a township reflect the values of that community.” I love this story about George Winslow Whittington, a Black man whose half-century of pioneering and death-defying work helped make the Swannanoa Valley what it is — and who is now honored publicly in Black Mountain, thanks to family and community efforts. Fred McCormick tells the tale in The Valley Echo.

   ➵ By the way, The Valley Echo is a community news website McCormick founded early last year — and it's in "pretty good" shape, he told me this week, considering "I launched it right when the pandemic set in, so that made everything a little dicey." It's totally supported by local advertising for now. "I wanted the content to be free because I wanted to build a reader base," said McCormick, a former staff writer, photographer and for two years "unofficial editor" of The Black Mountain News. He said he's considering letting readers support the Echo directly in the future, but "right now, my biggest focus is exposure. I just want people to read it, share it, follow it." You can do that on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The human consequences of public policy

👏 Some folks who most need COVID-related public assistance can’t get it because of rules that don't make sense to them — including criteria applied by the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which actually was meant to help people who fell through the cracks in other programs.

Sophie Kasakove, a Report for America corps member at The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, illuminates the issue through the compelling story of Kat Ham and Aaron Helfgott.

👏 Twenty states raised their minimum wage on Jan. 1. North Carolina kept it where it has been for 12 years — and a full-time minimum-wage worker here earns less than the federal poverty level. Richard Craver of the Winston-Salem Journal looks at the reasons (including the lack of the power of the ballot initiative) and the effects, on people and the economy. 
👏 I was humming a tune (you know which one) by Gerry Marsden (RIP, Gerry) as I read this update by David Mildenberg in Business North Carolina about the dispute over the fate of the Bald Head Island ferry. I recommend Johanna F. Still’s deep report on the ferry issue last month for Port CIty Daily.
And on the topic everyone needs to know about...

You've heard that North Carolina ranks low in getting the COVID-19 vaccines into people's arms. Even nursing home workers aren't getting them. And Gov. Roy Cooper has mobilized the National Guard to assist in the rollout. People need good information more than ever.
👏 This caught my eye: WSOC-TV in Charlotte put together a resource guide that collects county-by-county information on when and where COVID-19 vaccines will be available, a description of the state's rollout phases so readers can determine when they're eligible, and several other helpful links. 

   ➵ The National Association of Broadcasters and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute have released initial findings of research done to help local journalists educate audiences on the vaccines. (One finding: Respondents want information on safety and efficacy more than anything else.) Next, NAB and RJI will produce and update a vaccine-reporting toolkit, in English and Spanish, and will take care to share it with organizations that serve culturally diverse communities.
   ➵ Above and beyond: Check this thread on the reporter who offered to help seniors get vaccines. 

News about the news

Jim Morrill signed off at The Charlotte Observer on New Year's Eve after more than 30 years of covering local and state politics in North Carolina.

I had the great privilege of working with Jim when I filled in as politics editor at The News & Observer for some eventful months in 2016 — a time of primary elections, court-ordered redistricting and, unforgettably, HB2 and its fallout. Our newsrooms were 165 miles apart, so our work was a preview of the remote collaboration of 2020 — along with a lot of one-way sharing of wisdom. I learned a lot.

Jim tells me he wants to "take it easy for a while and then see what's out there" — a lot of reading and (when it's possible) traveling, some freelance writing and maybe a return to teaching media and politics.

A terrific reporter and a great human being. He'll be missed on the beat.

His last story (for now) for The Observer, published Dec. 31, looks at the future for North Carolina Republicans after the Trump presidency. It's a good example of what he's always done — bringing political stories closer to home. Two of his McClatchy colleagues notably did the same in recent days — Will Doran with this fact check on Madison Cawthorn, and Brian Murphy getting the locals on the record on today's objections to certification of Joe Biden's election.
   ➵ More on that topic: The role of local news in covering Trump’s endgame, by Lauren Harris for CJR.
🗞️Katrina Louis, managing editor of QCity Metro in Charlotte, and Erin McPherson, an editor for RALtoday in Raleigh, are among 25 journalists worldwide who have been selected for the first 2021 cohort of the Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms program at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. The program is two months of online training to help small and midsize local news organizations use product thinking to develop new ways to serve audiences. (Two more cohorts will follow this year; you can join the mailing list for updates and to find out when applications open.)

🗞️You know that "The State of Things" on WUNC now belongs to the ages, but its spinoff "Embodied" series, hosted by Anita Rao, lives on as its own weekly program Fridays at noon ("The Takeaway" fills the noon slot on other weekdays). "Embodied" also will have a second season as a podcast. (You can read my interview with Rao in my Nov. 18 newsletter, but please note this correction: She was born in England — not India — and moved to India when she was 10 days old.)

New Year’s reading list: Building trust

Bulletin board
Job postings
📌 Crime, courts and public safety reporter, Salisbury Post.
📌 News editor, YES! Weekly (Triad).
📌 Staff writer, Triangle Business Journal.
   ➵ BTW: If you need career help, or you just love dogs, may I refer you to this very helpful post by Mandy Hofmockel, Hearst Connecticut Media Group’s managing editor of audience, in her Substack newsletter, Journalism jobs and a photo of my dog. She made that post available to all, but why not subscribe to the newsletter?
📌 Applications are open until Jan. 15 for the second round of the Poverty and Inequality 2020-2021 Awards from the National Press Foundation, for work published in the last three months of 2020. [Learn more and enter.]

Free help
📌 Today is the last day to sign up for Poynter's free four-week online workshop, A Journalist’s Guide to Covering Jails and Police Reform, which starts Jan. 12. [Learn more and apply.]

For your consideration
📌 More than 500 journalists worldwide have died of COVID-19, and many of them became ill while working to inform their communities about the virus, Kristen Hare writes for Poynter. Hare also wrote about what she’s learned covering media layoffs and closures during the pandemic.
That's all for now. Thanks for being here, and I'll see you next week. Take care. 

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