Convening 'local coders' for training and collaboration

A new event this May will focus on the needs of local journalists and ways we might start meeting them.

A new event this May will focus on the needs of local journalists and ways we might start meeting them. (photo/Bonfire Media Collective)

Many of our programs at OpenNews invest in local journalism. People in smaller and regional newsrooms are in the right place for relationships that let them really listen to their community, and see the ways that collaborations across newsroom silos can help better meet those needs.

Through our news nerd survey, we’ve heard from so many people who are passionate about this kind of work. They’ve shared deep-dive interviews that highlight how the larger news-nerd community is an important resource for folks without a strong network of support in their own newsrooms. Those interviews emphasized the role that real-world connections play, so we offer scholarships that send folks to events throughout the year, and every SRCCON makes space for important conversations around the needs of local newsrooms. Smaller events open up time for releasing code, expanding capacity for leadership, and building resources for people who train their peers.

These programs continue to be important parts of our work, and this year we want to build on that commitment to local journalists. In May we’ll be bringing together a small group of people from local and regional newsrooms for an event focused on needs, training, and collaboration. We’ll spend two days getting better at our own work and thinking about how we can help our colleagues do the same, starting with a few important goals:

  • participants will go home with new strategies for sharing knowledge and skills with others
  • they’ll strengthen connections as collaborators who can work with each other on new projects or offer feedback when it’s needed
  • we’ll outline challenges specific to local journalism, then start plotting ways we might make that work easier.

We’ll be inviting about a dozen folks to join us: people working at a local or regional publication who support their colleagues in trying new things in journalism and tech—we’ve been using the term “local coders” here; and people active in training and teaching, mentoring, and working collaboratively. If this cohort sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, here’s what you need to know:

  • Where: Denver
  • When: May 6 & 7
  • Day 1: A training day that also includes local journalists from the Denver area. This will be organized unconference-style, with participants setting much of the agenda around skills they want to learn and conversations that feel important to have. Sessions might include anything from FOIA tricks to machine-learning basics to rubrics for measuring the success of an audience engagement project. This cohort will help us build the program.
  • Day 2: A daylong workshop to identify needs in local and regional newsrooms and help the group strengthen their own networks in journalism. This is part of a series of design exercises we’re organizing to learn more about how we can be a resource for the self-organized groups providing support to the community that current institutions aren’t offering.

This event will be in Denver, but it’s for people who work in local journalism from all over! We’ll cover travel, lodging, and meals for this event—we’re asking you and your organization to contribute your time and experience, so we’ll take care of planning, space, and the costs. A grant from the Democracy Fund makes this event possible.

Ongoing support for local journalism is a priority for us because we know it’s hard work, especially when newsroom resources are spread thin. News nerds in smaller organizations end up as accidental tech experts—with few folks around to answer their questions, or backstop them when they try something new. Money for professional development can be scarce. Time to learn or to work on long-term projects is a luxury that usually loses out against daily deadlines.

Some of these are gaps we can help fill. We have a lot of experience in bringing small groups together for convenings like this, but the real experts here are the people closest to the work. Applications are open through March 20, and we’ll notify everyone about participation by March 22. We’re so excited to dig in with people who are passionate about local journalism.

posted March 07, 2019 | posted in OpenNews