New Wyncote Foundation report highlights local media innovation

Examples show ways local media is reaching out to and reporting on local communities, with local support

Sarah Lutman
Feb 19 · 3 min read

In your town, do neighbors always know when the planning commission is making decisions about projects nearby? Chicago-based City Bureau is helping citizens attend public meetings, report on them, and share this information with neighbors.

Do you often see voices missing from the public square? Los Angeles-based public radio station KPCC has developed Unheard LA, a program to help local citizens tell and share their stories with each other and the station’s broadcast and digital audiences.

Building Stronger Communities Through Media: Innovations in Local Journalism, Public Media, and Storytelling is a new report from the Philadelphia-based Wyncote Foundation, profiling nine examples of projects making a difference in local communities with local support. Highlighted projects include Wyncote grantees, as well as other leaders in the field identified through research and requests to practitioners and grantmakers.

The new Wyncote report adds fodder to the emerging dialogue among place-based foundations about ways local media can animate and advance local funders’ diverse program priorities and grantmaking agendas. It follows the 2018 Wyncote report profiling nine local grantmakers’ media funding strategies. By providing information about groundbreaking work across the United States, these reports broaden the pool of examples that can inform grantmaking strategy and inspire deeper investment.

The impetus for the 2019 report comes from Wyncote’s first-hand experiences in media funding, and a desire to share common themes emerging from funded organizations:

  • Deeper community engagement: Local media organizations are exploring new forms of community engagement that bring the public into the journalism process and give citizens a greater role in deciding what stories are told and how. For example, the report highlights City Bureau, a civic journalism laboratory on the South Side of Chicago, which aims to make media coverage more democratic by building the journalism skills of neighbors and creating opportunities for them to participate in reporting. City Bureau’s goal is to shift journalists’ stance from coverage of communities to coverage with communities.
  • Bolder community empowerment: People and communities traditionally left out of mainstream news coverage are finding new ways to amplify stories from their neighborhoods and cultures. The report highlights Mizna, a St. Paul-based nonprofit that promotes Arab-American film, literature, and art, and NOISE, a hyperlocal news initiative in Omaha’s predominantly black northside neighborhood. Both organizations identify and share stories as reflected in their communities’ lived experiences.
  • Innovation in collaboration: News organizations are finding new and creative ways to work with one another to increase and strengthen local coverage. Resolve Philadelphia is an example of an exceptionally broad editorial collaboration involving 23 nonprofit and commercial newsrooms. Coverage focuses on efforts to amplify Philadelphia’s community voices and explore local solutions to community challenges.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion: The most consistent theme from the report is the way organizations are working to ensure that the full diversity of local community voices is both heard and served. Examples from multiple organizations show how local media is building reciprocal relationships across neighborhoods and geographies and working to bridge barriers of race, gender, age, and language.

The full report profiles the inspiring and creative work happening in local communities across our nation. The organizations and projects highlighted — and the funders who are furthering this work — give us hope for the future and offer grantmakers new approaches to making a difference “in place.”

To connect with Wyncote’s longstanding efforts to build dialogue and strengthen practice among place-based foundations funding local media, and to share your own examples, please be in touch.

Sarah Lutman is a St. Paul based consultant and founder of 8 Bridges Workshop, and a senior advisor to the Wyncote Foundation’s Public Media and Journalism program.

Trust, Media and Democracy

People need trusted news and information to make democracy work.

Thanks to Nancy Watzman.

Sarah Lutman

Written by

Founder, 8 Bridges Workshop

Trust, Media and Democracy

People need trusted news and information to make democracy work.