There’s plenty of talk about the rebirth of local media. But here’s a question that needs more attention: what’s happening with local media outside Western Europe and North America?

The answer could be critical to the future of global journalism.

The IPI global network of journalists, editors and publishers is keen to find out. With support from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, we’ll be taking a deep look at transitioning media and emerging new media. In our first worldwide look at local media we found — no surprise — that local news media is the most disrupted sector of the media, the most urgently in need of assistance, and also the sector with the greatest potential to form the bedrock for a new, stronger media ecosystem.

The digital transition is the opportunity to build sustainable media that better serve communities through innovation and experimentation. It’s already happening, but it’s unevenly distributed, particularly outside North America and Europe.

The research and learnings from IPI’s ongoing local news project have demonstrated that the need for deep research is particularly urgent in developing economies that lack key infrastructure to support media’s digital transition. This is a crucial gap in understanding how news media in developing or transitional states are innovating and building sustainable models to successfully disseminate quality news to their communities.

This special IPI project will fill that gap by building an understanding of how news media are doing this. We’ll be turning a laser focus on about 16 local media voices in the Asia-Pacific region as well as sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and MENA.

As the first deep dive into local news on the ground in these societies, this proposal holds out the potential for transformative action that can rebuild local news for the future and counter disinformation.

We’ll use what we learn to help strengthen quality news outlets serving local communities around the world. We’ll be sharing the lessons and insights widely in multimedia formats, through immersive training, workshops and mentoring, and by finding ways to continue to surface the experience and expertise of news leaders and builders around the world.

Independent local and community news media lie at the centre of democratic and informed communities. They are the key tool to empower citizens to grasp and exercise their rights in the communities where they live. They strengthen the information structures that work against disinformation. Yet, around the world, traditional local news media are in crisis, grappling with challenges of scale and funding, and the battle for attention. For many new media ventures, too, this is a critical moment of transition.

We’re putting our list of partners together now. If you’re working to build (or re-build) local media in these regions, or know of innovative media we can learn from, we want to hear from you.