Quick Hits for Local News Publishers

Three ideas, and new ways to share.

Quick Hits for Local News Publishers
Danny Stusser, Publisher of The JOLT, shares his “nanobrochure.”

By Alice Dreger

We’ll be bringing you more analysis and commentary from local news publishers next week. For now, here’s a quick rundown of some things you might want to know about as you hopefully get a weekend break from bringing the news:

“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

With apologies to the Blues Brothers. 

As you may be aware, various folks are looking at various schemes whereby various governments might help our operations financially without mucking with our independence. The skepticism toward this idea that I hear among local news publishers seems reasonable, but New York State has just enacted an experiment that could just work for some operations – both for-profit and nonprofit.

The basic idea is to provide what amount to government subsidies to news outlets to pay for reporters. Organizations that are eligible could obtain funds equivalent to 50% of a reporter’s salary with a max of $25,000 subsidy per reporter, up to a total of $300,000 per outlet. 

Emily Sachar, founder and editor of The Daily Catch in the Hudson Valley, is bullish on the scheme, known as the Newspaper and Broadcast Media Jobs Program.

“We expect this to be a game-changer for the Daily Catch,” she tells Local News Blues. “From a purely practical point of view, it means we will have, with the credits from two full-time staffers, enough money to bring on either a third reporter or a full-time deputy editor. But as important, it speaks to the value our elected officials place in the work street reporters are doing to tell local stories of local people facing local issues. This is real money back to us to do really hard work.”

Dick Tofel has done a bang-up job at his newsletter analyzing the unknowns and risks. Find that here. 

What I’m here to suggest to you is that – if you live in one of the other 49 states – you nudge the legislative wording under the noses of your own state-level elected officials so they might consider something similar. To find the text, click here and search for the phrase “article 27.” 

If there’s one thing I learned in covering my city council for ten years, legislators love not having to reinvent the wheel.

Get more creative with possible grant sources.

With 400 outlets sucking at the teats of NewsMatch, and maybe a thousand more wishing Press Forward will fund them, it may be time to stop waiting for the news-focused philanthropic industrial complex to do something big to help your operation.  

I’m hearing from more and more local news publishers who are turning to funding sources that are primarily focused on something other than journalism. Grants for educational programming, for example, might help pay for your interns and your coverage of schools. Grants focused on criminal justice reform could help pay for your reporting on policing and the courts. And your local economic development boosting organization – why not ask them if they have funds available to help cover reporting on local businesses?

For all our griping about the national "rescuers" who never seem to actually send out the boats, they have managed to make our audiences aware that local news matters and requires monetary support. Take this moment in the sun to see if you can’t reap some benefits beyond the grants aimed primarily at journalism?

Your business card is boring. Try this.

In a clever example of a ground offensive, Danny Stusser, publisher of The JOLT in Washington State, has shared with Local News Blues the deets on a small print product that is doing way more work to enlist subscribers than your business card ever will.

Danny prints these “nanobrochures” by the thousands and puts them in small stands in restaurants, office building lobbies, and the like. And they work.

The finished size of the card is 3.5”x4” and they are pre-scored so you can fold them in half, turning them into the size of a business card. Danny gets them printed on 14 or 16 pt. cardstock through Zoo Printing. Printing 10,000 costs about $590. The display racks come from Azur Displays and can be purchased in bulk. 

Imagine setting these up where your readers get their coffee, attend public meetings, shop, and work.

Finally, we have your buttons.

A couple of readers pointed out that Local News Blues posts have been lacking social media buttons, so I asked our tech manager Morgan Lees to get that done for us. You’ll now find buttons for Facebook, X, and LinkedIn at the end of every post. (You're welcome, Nancy!) Using another platform you want us to add? Lemme know.

Alice Dreger is a journalist, historian, and the publisher of Local News Blues. She foundedEast Lansing Info, a nonprofit digital investigative news service, and ran the operation for about ten years. Read more at the Local News Blues contributors page.