How many reporters does your local newspaper or newsroom have? Not enough. News deserts abound and major news organizations are laying off reporters yet again. That means coverage of vital local developments is shrinking: schools, local government policies, the environment and business developments.
Big Local News – a small lab within the Stanford journalism program – can help support even very tiny local newsrooms. We provide data and tipsheets for newsworthy stories. For example, reporters can examine school enrollment during the pandemic down to the school and grade. That’s data we collected at scale so local communities can know what is happening at their level, in context.
As you consider your year-end giving, we are asking for your support for Big Local News — and by extension, local journalists everywhere.
You can help support the project by making a donation at makeagift.stanford.edu. In the form, select School of Humanities and Social Science and specify Dept. of Communication, Big Local News project.
Here are just a few of the areas where we have supported vital community journalism.
Our platform provides journalists with a place to share data and access data we collect, from COVID data to school enrollment and layoff notices. We have built interactive maps related to the pandemic and to illustrate the shifting demographics with 2020 Census data. These maps allow community journalists to embed a local view for their reader, dispensing critical information. Because we make the maps easy to use and share, those same journalists are freed up to cover additional important local stories.
This year and next, we are embarking on one of our most ambitious projects yet. We are using public information online to build Agenda Watch, a tool that will support news outlets covering their communities with far less. Agenda Watch mines governmental documents – agendas, minutes and contracts – for news tips, making these results available to journalists and others. The information in these documents affects citizens’ health, safety and financial security, but most of it goes unreported to the public. Why? Because there are no longer enough reporters to cover the business of local governments. It is in the small, local, daily interactions that a community is made; and it is in surfacing those interactions that we can assure the continuation of vibrant communities across the United States.
Big Local News has gotten to this point because of gifts and grants. Your help will enable us to continue this vital support for accountability journalism where it counts the most, in your community. And every donation does make a difference.
Please contribute at makeagift.stanford.edu. In the form, select School of Humanities and Social Science and specify Dept. of Communication, Big Local News project. If you’re interested in supporting Big Local News at a bigger scale, reach out to me and we can build a threshold upon which local journalism can thrive. For more information or to talk about possible collaborations and projects, you can reach out directly to Cheryl Phillips, the founder of Big Local News, at [email protected].