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A year of local collaboration

“Gone are the days when a single news organization had the resources to dominate local news coverage, or when multiple news organizations would enter fierce competition to ‘win’ on the same local story.”

Gone are the days when a single news organization had the resources to dominate local news coverage, or when multiple news organizations would enter fierce competition to “win” on the same local story.

While competition used to drive strong news coverage and accountability reporting, a new information environment driven by technology and battling today’s challenges — from misinformation to declining trust in media — demand solutions from a variety of sources and players. In 2019, we’ll see an increase in multidisciplinary collaboration among sectors, institutions, and news organizations working to better serve local audiences.

There are a few positive indicators pointing to that trend:

Stronger local news ecosystems: A new nonprofit organization, Resolve Philadelphia, is leading a collaboration of The Philadelphia Inquirer, WHYY, Billy Penn, WURD, NBC10, Temple University, and 13 other media outlets in Philadelphia to report on and promote civic engagement around the issue of poverty. Resolve grew out of a 2017 collaborative news project organized by the Solutions Journalism Network about the challenges and the solutions to prisoner re-entry in Philadelphia, producing more than 200 stories and about the social and economic toll of high recidivism rates. In 2019, Resolve Philadelphia will continue to apply the solutions journalism framework to “Broke in Philly” and provide in-depth, nuanced reporting on the impact of poverty and potential solutions in Philadelphia. Knight is supporting a similar effort with the Solutions Journalism Network in Charlotte and has been helping fund the Detroit Journalism Cooperative for more than five years.

National–local partnerships: ProPublica just announced it will be working with 14 more local news organizations under its Local Reporting Network on accountability reporting and investigative reporting projects. Report For America is seeking applications for its next class of reporters and local news organizations after demonstrating tremendous success last year. And Reveal is continuing its strong work bringing data journalism, new forms of storytelling, and a collaborative approach in New Orleans and San Jose, with more cities to come.

Multidisciplinary partnerships: Problems associated with declining trust in media are drawing experts across academia, technology, and journalism to work collaboratively on solutions. One example is Cortico, a media technology nonprofit born out of MIT Media Lab. Cortico is working with the Associated Press, Alabama Media Group, and others to create an ear-to-ground listening tool that can systematically identify and elevate issues important to their local community. We are seeing similar collaborations tackling other critical issues such as the governance of artificial intelligence and the news.

Media funders join forces: More and more, media funders are collaborating to support local journalism projects. For example, Knight joined with the Lenfest Institute in Philadelphia this fall to support a $20 million fund aimed at transforming local journalism. Another key example is NewsMatch, a national matching-gift campaign that is helping nonprofit news organizations build their audience and donor base while also helping them increase fundraising expertise. After launching in 2016 with 57 news organizations, Knight joined with Democracy Fund, MacArthur Foundation, Ethics and Excellence, and a host of others to help members of the Institute for Nonprofit News raise $26.4 million. The 2018 campaign, which closes on Dec. 31, now includes 155 nonprofit news organizations and a host of new funders.

In 2019, we’re hoping that funders will join together to invest in the American Journalism Project, a venture philanthropy organization for local news led by Chalkbeat founder Elizabeth Green and Texas Tribune founder John Thornton.

These examples are among the many collaborative efforts the Knight Foundation journalism team was excited by in 2018. Looking ahead, we anticipate more strategic and unexpected collaborations among news organizations and those passionate about creating a strong future for informed communities.

This prediction was written by the Knight Foundation journalism team: LaSharah Bunting, Paul Cheung, Jennifer Preston, Karen Rundlet. and Nick Swyter.

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