What Works in Community News: Media Startups, News Deserts, and the Future of the Fourth Estate (Hardcover)

What Works in Community News: Media Startups, News Deserts, and the Future of the Fourth Estate By Ellen Clegg, Dan Kennedy Cover Image

What Works in Community News: Media Startups, News Deserts, and the Future of the Fourth Estate (Hardcover)

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A groundbreaking study of the journalism startups that are solving the local news crisis one community at a time

A must-read for activists, entrepreneurs, and journalists who want to start local news outlets in their communities

Local news is essential to democracy. Meaningful participation in civic life is impossible without it. However, local news is in crisis. According to one widely cited study, some 2,500 newspapers have closed over the last generation. And it is often marginalized communities of color who have been left without the day-to-day journalism they need to govern themselves in a democracy.

Veteran journalists Ellen Clegg and Dan Kennedy cut through the pessimism surrounding this issue, showing readers that new, innovative journalism models are popping up across the country to fill news deserts and empower communities. What Works in Community News examines more than a dozen of these projects, including:

  • Sahan Journal, a digital publication dedicated to reporting on Minnesota’s immigrant and refugee communities;
  • MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit news outlet in Memphis, TN, focused on poverty, power, and public policy;
  • New Haven Independent / WNHH / La Voz Hispana de Connecticut, a digital news project that expanded its reach in the New Haven community through radio and a Spanish-language partnership;
  • Storm Lake Times Pilot, a print newspaper in rural Iowa innovating with a hybrid for-profit/nonprofit model; and
  • Texas Tribune, once a pioneering upstart, now one of the most well-known—and successful—digital newsrooms in the country.

Through a blend of on-the-ground reporting and interviews, Clegg and Kennedy show how these operations found seed money and support, and how they hired staff, forged their missions, and navigated challenges from the pandemic to police intimidation to stand as the last bastion of collective truth—and keep local news in local hands.
Ellen Clegg spent more than 3 decades at The Boston Globe and retired in 2018 after 4 years of running the opinion pages. In between stints at the Globe, she was deputy director of communications at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She is a member of the steering committee for the Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship at the International Women’s Media Foundation. Ellen is co-founder and co-chair of Brookline.News, a nonprofit startup news organization in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Dan Kennedy is a professor in the School of Journalism at Northeastern University and a nationally known media commentator. He was a panelist on the GBH News television program Beat the Press (1998–2021) and also served as a weekly columnist for the network. He was also a columnist for The Guardian from 2007–2011. Dan is a recipient of the Yankee Quill Award from the New England Academy of Journalists and the James W. Carey Journalism Award from the Media Ecology Association.

Follow Ellen and Dan online at whatworks.news and on Twitter at @whatworks_nu.
Product Details ISBN: 9780807009949
ISBN-10: 0807009946
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication Date: January 9th, 2024
Pages: 264
Language: English
“For readers who despair at the collapse of traditional media nationwide, this survey is a bolster; for journalists looking to create such viable news sources in their own communities, it’s a highly useful road map.”
Booklist, Starred Review

“A fresh, optimistic, and necessary exploration of what really works in the crucially important realm of local news.”
—Margaret Sullivan, author of Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy

“A great and important book . . . Provides great hope that the field is full of passionate, brilliant people who are going to figure this out.”
—Steven Waldman, founder of Rebuild Local News and cofounder of Report for America

“A valuable reference book for entrepreneurs and a compelling read for anyone interested in saving and reviving local news.”
—Penelope Muse Abernathy, author of Saving Community Journalism: The Path to Profitability

“Pulls together in one place innovative approaches from across the country to stave off growing ‘news deserts.’ You can’t help but find this book nourishing if you care about preserving local news—and our democracy.”
—Gregory L. Moore, former editor of The Denver Post

“Crackling with insights and richly detailed, this sharply written book is essential reading for anyone interested in journalism’s future and the democracy it serves.”
—Victor Pickard, author of Democracy Without Journalism? Confronting the Misinformation Society

“A comprehensive history and analysis of major news ecosystems in the emerging digital media landscape.”
—Anne Galloway, VTDigger founder and editor at large