Takeaways from the Independent News Sustainability Summit
Around 500 journalists, funders, publishers and others gathered in Austin for the 2022 Independent News Sustainability Summit. While the core theme of sustainability wove its way through the schedule of events, the sessions were filled with vibrant sharing of how they are serving their communities. In a spirit of collaboration and shared mission, journalists pulled back the curtain on their practical examples and shared experiences to inform each other about how they are making their way through a rapidly changing media landscape.
There were many perspectives and solutions shared over the 3 days, here are my top takeaways:
There are as many solutions as there are communities to serve
The traditional editorial process may not work to fulfill an organization’s mission, and it takes creative experiments to meet the needs of an organizational mission.
Anita Li, founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of The Green Line shared their solution: building an Action Funnel, a solution focused series to combat news avoidance and sustaining community engagement on one systemic issue. This editorial process was designed so each of the parts support each other as an ecosystem.
Over 4 weeks they create create the following:
- An explainer article defining the issue
- A long-form deep dive on local solutions addressing the systemic issue
- Host a community event for community to discuss the issue
- A story on the crowdsourced results of the event
This is their path to engender trust and a commitment to the Toronto community of their ongoing coverage.
Angilee Shah, the Editor-in-Chief of Charlottesville Tomorrow, and Sisi Wei, Editor-in-Chief of The Markup, talked about the role of a leader in making change. They discussed how they as leaders can make change at the “speed of trust.” Through transparency and collaboration, they strive to make changes to fit the needs of their community and the needs of the journalists working with the community. They described how to give up old practices that do not serve the mission, questioning the status quo and how to evaluate what journalists need to do their work.
Organizations making community-centric solutions still face universal needs that can be addressed at scale through collaboration
Just as collective bargaining grows in journalism, the need for small organizations to collaborate to address organizational needs continues to grow. The resources available are many, but no perfect ecosystem exists, it is evolving as we do.
Collaborations like the Independent News Sustainability Summit (a joint effort between LION Publishing, the RevLab at the Texas Tribune, and the News Revenue Hub) and other support organizations like Tiny News Collective, Big Local News, our team at RJI, INN and others — are building networks of support for small news orgs and community-centered news. From small operational grants, to training, to business development — there are needs that are common to most small organizations and the organizations providing those needs are growing to them.