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Changes of habit

Change, paradoxically, is our constant. (There's a big one happening in DC, right about now.)

People and institutions — especially institutions — often forget that fact. They get comfortable. But every day, if we’re paying attention, we learn something. We get new perspectives, we understand things we didn’t; and if we’re smart, we apply that knowledge. Think about January 2020. How different our approaches and philosophies were, just 12 months ago.

If the news and information community is to continue to empower our quest for a healthy society, we must adapt — every day.

Aside from being my philosophy of life, that was one of my key takeaways from the first NC Local News Summit last week, “The Power of Many,” hosted by the NC Local News Workshop at Elon University with support from the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media at UNC. The name itself suggests a change that has happened over the past decade — the realization that we can do more by leveraging the talents of each of us, rather than being rigidly and relentlessly competitive.

If you’re not one of the 150 or so people who attended the Zoom summit, I recommend the video of the speakers’ presentations. Each speaker talked about some species of transformation. Today and in weeks to come, I’ll highlight some of their key insights...

Ju-Don Marshall, chief content officer and executive vice president, WFAE
The WFAE team is a model of collaboration (see their many partnerships at 6:35 on the video). Collaborations, Marshall said, allow news organizations to reach wider, more diverse and underserved audiences; to fill gaps in staff knowledge and skills; to fill gaps in content served; to deepen engagement, listening and understanding; to increase cultural competency; to build talent pipelines; and to innovate.

She offered lots of superb advice, but this is the bit that stuck with me:

‘Collaborations really have to be treated like a partnership of equals. … You can't have a mindset of, we’re the big organization, and we're providing value to the partner. … It's an equal exchange of value.’

Go to 15:57 on the video for her superb list of tips.

Cierra Hinton, executive director-publisher at Scalawag and director of network-building and strategy at Press On
Hinton’s talk was called “Abolish the Fourth Estate” — referring to the proverbial role of the press, reporting on those in power and working “apart from regular people and their communities.” And “this disconnect manifests as distrust,” she said. We need to be doing journalism differently, particularly in regard to race and privilege, and “bringing nearly half of the American population back into the conversation.”

‘We uphold power to the benefit of the same powerful figures we claim to hold accountable. … Newsrooms need to start covering the people's power … to cover people-power like it is the power that drives our democracy — because it is.’

Read HInton’s call to action here or watch it at 1:05:30 on the video.

Les High, publisher, The News Reporter, Whiteville

High described how his family-owned, print-legacy operation, around for 125 years, has changed to survive, particularly since it was in the first Table Stakes cohort at UNC in 2017. (Its performance challenge was “not to go out of business.”) The big change was to put the audience in the driver’s seat.

‘We can’t dictate what the news is from the top down like we did 20 years ago. We have to involve our audience … (including) just getting out in the public and listening.’

The playbook: Use of analytics, metered website, apps, newsletters, events, and new ways of reaching the audience — as when The News Reporter became "the emergency broadcast system for Columbus County" on Facebook Live during Hurricane Florence. High's advice: Experiment and follow the data; collaborate; find help (from journalism organizations and local benefactors).

See his full presentation starting at 1:22:15 on the video.
Resources... and more to come
➡️ Here’s the Big Resource Document from the summit: Links and resources from all of the speakers, presentations and breakout sessions.
➡️ We'll have more takeaways next week. I'd also love to hear and share your thoughts. My DMs are open, and you can also email me.
Want to lead the Workshop?

My friend, mentor and boss, Melanie Sill, led the group that made the summit happen — and she has built the NC Local News Workshop, which hosts this newsletter, from the ground up as its interim executive director. The Workshop is now looking for someone to fill that role in the long term.

If you're interested in leading the Workshop's effort to enhance quality and access in news and information in our state, check out the requirements and apply.

Listen up

'If journalism is the first rough draft of history, arts and music are the universal languages binding its pages together and preserving it for future generations.'

That’s Joni Deutsch, on-demand content and audience engagement manager at WFAE in Charlotte, in her contribution to the Nieman Lab collection of predictions for 2021. It's a call for journalists and others in digital media to help restore their local arts communities after the pandemic. 

Frankly, her piece is instructive for any kind of community engagement. It's well worth your time.

Among her many roles at WFAE, Deutsch is host and producer of the Amplifier podcast, which has won Edward R. Murrow and Webby awards. It’s a look at Charlotte’s music scene, with new episodes every other Thursday. [Listen.]

   ➵ Deutsch also crafted the North Carolina-themed playlist for the social half-hour at the start of the Local News Summit. (Whoa ... The Spongetones. Joni, I won't tell you when I last heard those guys. But I don't think you had been born.)

Well done

The NC Open Government Coalition supported independent journalist and researcher Jeremy Borden (writer of Untold Story), Michael Taffe (who just joined my newsroom, EdNC) and Kathy Qian (executive director of Code for Democracy) to produce a network analysis of 2020 campaign funding in North Carolina. The story and data visuals are available for use by North Carolina media.

The project illuminates the sources of campaign money in key legislative races and the roles of state and national funders. Network analysis, “a type of spatial analysis most often used in fraud detection, counterterrorism and other fields,” Borden writes, helps to reveal the interplay among candidates, donors and networks of power. The visuals are stunning and revealing.

Sludge, a national publication that reports on campaign finance, has published the project. The conditions for other media wanting to use it, and iframe codes for the visuals, are in this post.
Some more solid work
👏 When New Hanover County sold its public hospital last year, $1.2 billion in public assets went to a private foundation. Johanna F. Still of Port City Daily is doing a deeply reported, three-part series on the transaction, the foundation and the deal’s effect on surrounding rural counties. You can start here.

👏 What's holding up the COVID vaccine rollout in North Carolina? Problems with workforce, timing, record-keeping and planning, according to this report from the NC Watchdog Reporting Network.

👏 An examination of how cash bail policies harm people of color and the poor: ‘Like something just insurmountable’: Two Fayetteville groups seek cash bail reform. Akira Kyles, The Fayetteville Observer.

👏 The state Ethics Commission encountered "significant resistance" last year when it investigated whether Mark Johnson, who was then state superintendent of public instruction, had misused his position to further his political ambitions, Michael McElroy reports for Cardinal & Pine.

👏 Was the guy who worked on charter travel for the Carolina Hurricanes fired because he supported Donald Trump? Through interviews, research and some social media diving, Chip Alexander of the McClatchy newsrooms digs in. The money quotes:
  • Fired worker: “(It’s) something toxic and something that needs to be called out.”
  • NHL spokesman: “(We) have no idea who he is.”

News about the news

🗞️ Bill Adair and Philip Napoli of the DeWitt-Wallace Center for Media & Democracy at Duke are calling on President Biden to quickly appoint a bipartisan commission “to investigate the problem of misinformation and make recommendations about how to address it.” [Read their argument.]

🗞️ Raleigh Convergence, which editor and publisher Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen has dedicated to people-centered and people-powered journalism since she founded it in April 2019, is grounding that philosophy in its business model with a membership program. [Find out more.]

🗞️ The Daily Tar Heel's print edition will now come once a week instead of thrice. EIC Anna Pogarcic explains why.

🗞️ Votebeat, a pop-up newsroom started by Chalkbeat last fall to cover local election integrity and voting access in eight states, including North Carolina, is expanding its coverage scope and its mission through the 2022 midterms. Jessica Huseman of ProPublica's ElectionLand will be its editorial director. [Read more.]

🗞️ WRAL in Raleigh is one of four newsrooms participating in a pilot project intended to help journalists turn data into high-impact local journalism. The project was developed by Local Media Association, Crosstown and Facebook Journalism Project.
Bulletin board
Job posting
📌Investigative reporter, McClatchy in North Carolina (based at The Charlotte Observer).

📌 Type Investigations is looking for five investigative reporters of color for 2021 Ida B. Wells Fellowships, including one who will report from the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, Texas or Mississippi. The fellowship, which will help each reporter complete a substantial investigative work, includes a $20,000 award, editorial guidance, resources, legal assistance, attendance at an IRE conference, a one-week data reporting boot camp, and funds to cover other costs. [Learn more and enter by March 14.]

📌 The yearlong Maynard 200 Journalism Fellowship, the signature professional development program of the Maynard Institute, begins April 12. It offers training and mentorship for diverse media leaders, storytellers and entrepreneurs, and it’s tuition-free through funding by Google News Initiative, Craig Newmark Philanthropies and The Wunderkinder Foundation. [Learn more and apply by Feb. 24.]

📌 The Power of Diverse Voices: The Poynter Minority Writers Workshop is a four-day seminar April 8-11 that helps journalists of color find their voice and build skills for writing opinion pieces and personal essays, led by Tom Huang of The Dallas Morning News. It’s free, but space is limited. [Learn more and apply by Feb. 7.]

📌 You have just a few days to apply to be a reporter in the 2021-22 cohort of Report for America. Seven of the open positions are in North Carolina. [Learn more and apply.]

COVID reporting help
📌 The Google News Initiative will offer up to $3 million in the current round of funding to help pay for work that fights misinformation about the COVID vaccines. [Apply by Jan. 31.]

📌 I wrote a couple of weeks ago about initial findings of research by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Reynolds Journalism Institute to help local journalists educate audiences on the COVID vaccines. A toolkit for journalists based on that research, including sample messaging, tactics and suggested ways to communicate with diverse audiences, has now dropped. [Check it out.]

Award competitions

📌 The North Carolina Open Government Coalition is taking nominations for its annual Sunshine Awards, for work that advances transparency and accountability in public business, and the Frank Barrows Award for Excellence in Student Journalism, which honors work that exemplifies the role of open government. [Find out more.]
📌 The $2,000 Robinson Prize honors an "editor of the year" whose work exemplifies the values of ACES: The Society for Editing. Criteria include editing, design, mentoring and training; fostering teamwork and pride; and "anything else that furthers the craft.” [Nominate yourself or others by Jan. 31.] 
Free resources

📌 Read and bookmark this from Press On's Lewis Wallace: Ethical Reporting on Police Violence and Black-led Resistance: Tips for Journalists.

📌 Here's an updating list of COVID-19 mental health resources for journalists from The Carter Center.
For your consideration

📌 What the Capitol riots show us about the white illusion of civility. Lovey Cooper and Katherine Webb-Hehn, Scalawag.

📌 An Anti-Racist Future: A Vision and Plan for the Transformation of Public Media. Celeste Headlee, in a synthesis of the work of more than 200 people in public media, on Medium.

📌 With the loss of journalism outlets, homogeneity becomes the norm. Lauren Harris, CJR.
That's all. (One day this newletter will be short — I swear.) For now, thanks for being here, and I'll see you next week. Take care. 

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