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Feb. 10, 2017, 9:30 a.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: localnewslab.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Shan Wang   |   February 10, 2017

Are you a small newsroom focused on local news, wondering how to even begin growing one of those email newsletters that are being touted as significant sources of readership as well as revenue for your site? Is your newsroom interested in raising money from readers for specific projects for the first time, but hoping to avoid the various pitfalls of crowdfunding?

The spiffy new Local News Lab, relaunched on Friday, is offering updated guidebooks to help local newsrooms seeking practical advice on how to tackle these very experiments. Three guides are up now — on events, newsletters, and crowdfunding — and more will be released each month.

Local News Lab is an initiative first launched in 2014 by Molly de Aguiar and Josh Stearns through the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation to focus on the local news ecosystem in New Jersey, supported by a $2 million grant from the Knight Foundation. (Disclosure: Knight also supports Nieman Lab.)

When Stearns moved to the national foundation Democracy Fund, the Fund adopted the Local News Lab website and Local Fix newsletter. Stearns, an associate director at the Democracy Fund, explained the Local News Lab’s growing mission:

As a national foundation, Democracy Fund is expanding the website to focus on creative experiments in local news nationwide not just in New Jersey. As such, we expect to add more partners over time as we fund projects in new regions in collaboration with other foundations.

The Dodge Foundation and Knight Foundation are not contributing financially to the Local News Lab. However, Democracy Fund and Knight are both still funding projects in New Jersey with Dodge focused on creating a more diverse, collaborative and sustainable news ecosystem. So we’ll definitely still be featuring work and lessons learned from that ongoing work in New Jersey, but we’ll also be bringing in voices and examples from around the country.

The new guides alone will be useful for those looking to kickstart new projects (and potential revenue-generators) they’ve never tried before, such as live events, and are full of real examples of what other outlets have already tried. The events guidebook, for instance, comes with budgeting, marketing, and speaker agreement templates.

The revamped Local News Lab site will be posting several more guides soon on topics like community engagement, and will incorporate the work of Democracy Fund fellows and others:

The site will also likely feature resources created by Democracy Fund’s Senior Fellows and consultants who are working on a range of exciting projects. (Our senior fellows include Geneva Overholser, Tracie Powell, Daniela Gerson and Marty Kaiser, their bios are all here. The Dodge Foundation has also been working with Sabrina Hersi Issa, Jeanne Brooks and Chris Satullo who will also be featured on the site. We have future guides coming up on community engagement, innovations in local ads and how to run simple focus groups around community information needs.

Check out what the Lab has to offer here.

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