Sounding the alarm

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from September 21 for more from the Workshop, including industry news, job postings and shout-outs to journalists statewideSign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

Like you, I was inspired by the success last Thursday of the first U.S. Democracy Day, a nationwide collaborative reporting project to focus attention on the crisis in American democracy, and to inform and empower citizens to address it. The project was coordinated by leaders at the Center for Cooperative Media, News Revenue Hub, Hearken, and the Institute for Nonprofit News.

As we always do, North Carolina showed up. I saw reporting and other contributions from Carolina Public Press, the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, Chatham News + Record, Jane Elizabeth’s Consult Creative LLC, Durham Skywriter, Enlace Latino NC, Journalism Funding Partners, La Noticia, the NC Local News Workshop (home of this newsletter), NC Policy Watch, Pride Magazine, QnotesCarolinas, States Newsroom, the UNC Hussman School, WCNC and WFAE. (If I missed you, yell at me.)

All of the work is showcased online. You can still add something you produced (published or unpublished), using the links provided there, and also submit work that can be republished by others. And you can thumb through the #DemocracyDay tag on Twitter.

Other work not listed in that database put a focus on the crisis. On Friday, McClatchy’s state editorial board delivered a package of four pieces highlighting aspects of the emergency, including gerrymandering, voter repression, extremism, the independent state legislature theory, and potential remedies.

Of course, success is defined by results — and the work only gets more challenging, more important. So here’s additional guidance and wisdom from the democracy front (and yes, it does feel like a “front” now):

‘Among the many strange spawn of 2020 was the realization that journalists needed to step in and help teach the world’s leading democracy about democracy.’

I mentioned my friend Jane Elizabeth above, and her serial report for the American Press Institute, starting with ‘Not normal’: What local newsrooms can do now to prepare for a series of historic elections, is required reading. New chapters are being rolled out each day this week, and the full report will be available at the API site on Friday. It’s a landscape analysis, a hub of creative examples and resources (many of them from our great state), and a loud call to action. If you do nothing else today, dive into this.

Democracy Fund continues to update its collection of research on how journalism strengthens democracy, and how its lack does great harm to communities. (This latest update, from Josh Stearns and Christine Schmidt, includes contributions from Andrea Lorenz, a Ph.D candidate at the UNC Hussman School.) If you’re writing grant proposals, or reporting on the issues, or just having a conversation at the bar about journalism and the foundations of democracy, and you need the receipts — they’re here.

Richard Tofel, in his Second Rough Draft blog and for Nieman Lab, lays out research-based examples of ways the news media can empower voters with the basics, such as voter guides. (He cites the way publisher/editor Bill Horner III is telling Chatham News + Record readers how his newsroom is covering this year’s election. I especially like the “What we won’t do” section.)

And once again: My friend and mentor Melanie Sill, founder of this newsletter and first executive director of the Workshop, collected links to presentations and resources from the sessions at our NC Elections Prep: Focus on Democracy convening last month at Elon University, which she coordinated with Workshop ED Shannan Bowen. A wealth of great guidance and ideas there.

➵ I’m interested in sharing other smart, creative, effective work in the service of democracy, so send me what you’re seeing.