The IPI global network of journalists, editors and publishers wants to understand and share the emerging lessons on the conditions and actions that are helping to create trusted, sustainable local news organisations.

Local news media have long been at the centre of democratic and informed communities. They are the key tool in empowering citizens in grasping and exercising their rights in the communities where they live. They also strengthen the information structures that work against misinformation and disinformation. Yet, around the world, traditional local news media are in crisis, grappling with challenges of scale and the battle for attention.

We need to move beyond the crisis, to stop asking: What’s gone wrong? Instead, we want to ask: what works? How have quality local media outlets succeeded in countering misinformation by building new models to inform local communities in an effective and sustainable way, especially online?

With challenge comes opportunity: Some traditional players are pivoting to new relevance. New players are emerging. But it’s unevenly distributed. By sharing knowledge and experiences globally, this project will better equip media to adapt to the needs of now.

Now innovation in local journalism involves rethinking journalism with the reader, listener, viewer — the engaged local community — in mind, with thinking about “what’s the job they are seeking us to do?” At the same time, the traditional enemies of a free press are attempting to exploit lack of trust and traditional disengagement, requiring a rethink of how to entrench trust and how to combat misinformation.

What will we do?

We’ll be diving deep with more than a dozen local news organisations around the world to learn and share how they are:

  • Building trust and sustainable relationships with readers and community members, and involving them in the journalism;
  • Understanding and engaging their communities, and creating great journalism and news products they need and value;
  • Experimenting (and what they are learning from success and failure), and creating a culture to encourage this in their newsrooms and among their readers; and
  • Developing new and diverse revenue streams, and business models that will sustain their journalism.

Beyond that, as local media is often at the forefront of combating misinformation, we want to learn how news organisations are doing this best.  How do they understand their role when truth is polluted. Is it simply by doing outstanding journalism with and for their communities? Are there specific strategies and practices we can learn from and share? We’ll look for practical examples that work at the local level.

How will we do it?

We’ll tease out how each organisation sees the role of journalism today, asking: what are the challenges and priorities for them? what IS each organisation doing (or intending to do)? What are they trying to achieve? How do they understand and build audience engagement and trust? How do they see their future? This will enable us to map the existing innovation ecosystem, identify gaps, experiences and trends we can share and learn from.

We are looking particularly for news media that is framing the challenges in new and revealing ways and experimenting and innovating to secure the future of journalism.

We’ll also:

Talk with leading innovators, media researchers and thinkers, and funders of local journalism models to aggregate understandings of local media;

Analyse the innovation efforts within local media and evaluate its impact and effectiveness;

Review the work and impact any supporting transition infrastructure and local news media support organisations to determine what’s working and what are the gaps.

We’ll share our findings in recommendations and case studies, and through a series of digital and IRL forums and events beginning with the virtual congress and running through to  April next year. We’ll also organise a virtual study tour for a a series of more intimate conversations between local news builders and innovators.

What do we need from you?

If you’ve read this, you are probably on a similar journey. Be in touch at jpark[at] — and we’ll be in touch with you. The best way to tackle these big challenges is if we do it together.


Project supported by Craig Newmark Philanthropies.