Can national and local media find a sustainable way to collaborate? We’re trying to figure that out

Center for Cooperative Media launches year 2 of project to support local and national news partnerships

In 2016, the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University launched the first year of a pilot project aimed at catalyzing more partnerships between local and national news organizations.

During that first year, the project manager, Tim Griggs, studied how such partnerships work and spent a lot of time talking to local news organizations in New Jersey — where we’re based — and national outlets to figure out where we could make connections.

What he found wasn’t entirely surprising, but it helped immensely in laying the groundwork for the challenges those kind of partnerships will face.

Now, we’re gearing up to launch year two, thanks to continuing support from Democracy Fund.

To begin with, we’ve hired Carla Baranauckas to spearhead this program in 2018. Carla was an editor with The New York Times for 21 years and an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism for 15 years before working at Politics Daily, DailySource.org, Next Avenue and The (Bergen) Record.

Her experience includes reporting, writing and editing on breaking news, local news, national news and sports. She contributed to “Portraits of Grief,” which was part of The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of 9/11. She is also a member of the board of directors for the Peabody Award-winning Round Earth Media. Her favorite reporting project, “A Dog’s Life, Upgraded,” was published in The New York Times on Sept. 24, 2006.

Carla Baranauckas

Carla’s focus over the next several months will be to monitor national news stories and databases, as well as news content made available to use under a Creative Commons license, looking for potential connections that New Jersey news organizations could localize. She’ll help to pull out those pieces and work with local reporters and editors to localize and publish or broadcast the content.

Carla will also set up a system that will help local news organizations see what’s available to them on a regular basis.

The end goal is to help produce impactful, meaningful local journalism that local journalists — especially those in small, independent and nonprofit newsrooms — otherwise might not have the time or resources to pursue.

Especially as legacy newsrooms have downsized, these kinds of roles, normally filled by a state or wire editor, don’t exist as much anymore. At the same time, more content is available for reuse today, and new technology makes it easier than ever to find and analyze.

But what we found through Tim’s research was that many small and independent news organizations didn’t have the capacity to localize national stories or data that could have a local impact, and, to be honest, they didn’t see the value. At the same time, national news organizations were reticent to put in the time necessary to make local connections — they didn’t see the value there.

However, we believe there is value for both sides. And we think we’ll be able to demonstrate that through our work over the next year.

Another related piece of this puzzle involves freelancers. We are actively trying to figure out how we can better network and harness the power of media freelancers and independent journalists. We think a strong network of individual journalists could especially help national news organizations deepen their coverage; instead of parachuting in and out of communities, how about contacting journalists who live and work there?

If you have ideas or questions, let us know! We’d love to hear from national news organizations who want to partner with us, and local news organizations who are interested in joining the effort. Or, if you just have thoughts about the topic, we’d love to hear that, too! Email us at info@centerforcooperativemedia.org.


About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. The Center is supported with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and Democracy Fund. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.