From the director: Local news jobs should be sustainable, too

At the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local News, our vision is this: To help build a more equitable and sustainable future for local news, the journalists who make it and the communities that need it. We see news organizations, journalists and communities as interconnected but distinct stakeholders in the quest for a better local news future.  

Much sustainability work in the industry thus far has focused on organizations — the business models, new products and revenue lines, etc. — while a growing body of work centers on community information needs as civic infrastructure, such as media or news deserts or critical information needs coverage. 

Making local journalism jobs themselves more sustainable — better pay, hours, working conditions and opportunities for growth across media and ownership types — is also important to the future of local news. 

Our agenda in research, education and practice this year will focus on sustainability across those areas.  

What does sustainability mean in practical terms? How is it different across media types or geographic locales? Do newsroom employees in North Carolina reflect their communities? How can we strengthen community sources of reporting or help local news managers with hiring and management practices that make their staff feel welcome and supported? And what does the growing number of newsroom unions reveal about the turmoil and volatility in local news, and the degree to which newsroom jobs have gotten more difficult? 

We also hope to use a combination of approaches to explore potential solutions to the local news crisis. Today we unveiled a news project on unionization in local news that combines a traditional research report on unionization trends with a journalistic report into unionization as a solution. The latter report uses the rigorous reporting framework pioneered by the Solutions Journalism Network. These reports complement each other but use different methods and reveal different insights about changes and trends in local news unionization. 

We’d love your feedback, both on this topic of unionization and other solutions that need a similar exploration, at [email protected]  

Erica Beshears Perel,
CISLM Director