The annual conference held during Sunshine Week will feature a keynote presentation by Meredith Clark and Tracie Powell on the challenges and opportunities facing BIPOC-led news organizations. Registration is now open.
For the second consecutive year, news and information professionals dedicated to sustaining local news and open government in the Tar Heel state will gather on Thursday, March 16, at Elon University for the North Carolina Local News & Information Summit.
Coinciding with Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of open government and freedom of information, the daylong summit features workshops on topics such as government transparency, news sustainability and funding, community listening, and pursuing environmental justice through freedom of information.
The summit’s program, which kicks off in Dwight C. Schar Hall at 8:30 a.m. and concludes with a reception from 5:30-7 p.m., will also include the presentation of the NC Open Government Coalition’s annual Sunshine Awards. The summit’s registration page is now open.
The event will culminate with a keynote presentation addressing opportunities and challenges facing Black, Indigenous, and people of color-led news organizations and startups, presented by Meredith Clark, associate professor at Northeastern University, and Tracie Powell, CEO and founder of The Pivot Fund. The keynote will incorporate Clark and Powell’s recent study, “Architects of Necessity,” examining the interconnected fields of race, journalism philanthropy and community information needs through the experiences of newsroom leaders who identify as BIPOC. A Q&A session will follow.
“We are thrilled to bring Meredith and Tracie to North Carolina to lead the keynote program at this year’s summit,” said Brooks Fuller, director of the NC Open Government Coalition. “North Carolinians’ ability to get useful information from government sources is inextricably tied to the health and power of BIPOC-led news organizations within the information ecosystem here. We’re lucky to have Tracie and Meredith here to share their insights during Sunshine Week.”
Shannan Bowen, executive director of the NC Local News Workshop, echoed Fuller’s sentiments, and added that the keynote melds well with the workshop’s Media Equity Project, helping advance diversity, equity and inclusion values and policies across the state. “Meredith and Tracie’s presentation will further show why our focus on this effort is needed for a more equitable future for local news,” she added.
The conference’s workshops and discussions will address a series of topics related to local news and freedom of information, including “The Why and How of Community Listening,” an interactive session on the basics of engaging community members. The conversation will be facilitated by Branchhead Consulting’s Fiona Morgan.
Melba Newsome, a freelance writer, and Lizzy Hazeltine, director of the NC Local News Lab Fund, will lead an AMA-style session on philanthropic funding. Additionally, freelance journalist Jordan Wilkie and Blue Ridge Public Radio interim news director Laura Lee will explore multi-newsroom collaborations and the future of a Citizens Agenda for election reporting.
Other noteworthy open government workshops include a discussion by Upstate and Code the Dream on improving transparency at the NC General Assembly. Ricky Leung, Cody Hill and the Upstate team will explore ways that technology can improve access to the legislature for journalists, advocates and the public.
Additionally, the Southern Environmental Law Center will lead a conversation on using data tools to help journalists report on environmental justice and climate change issues. The session will help participants navigate tools such as the EPA’s EJScreen that provide in-depth climate and environmental data that can help local reporters tell community-focused climate stories.
This is the second year the NC Open Government Coalition and the NC Local News Workshop have partnered on a statewide summit. And Bowen sees real value in its programming, noting that it helps fulfill the workshop’s “mission of convening people from across our local news and information ecosystem to tackle shared challenges and learn from one another.”
“Brooks and I both look forward to the discussions, ideas and partnership that will take place during and after our second annual joint Summit,” Bowen added.
“North Carolina’s news and information ecosystem is a bellwether for the future of collaboration and innovation between traditional news organization, startups, civic tech groups and transparency advocates,” Fuller said. “The summit provides a space for hands-on work that will help get reliable information to North Carolina citizens and lead to better outcomes at the community level.”
The North Carolina Open Government Coalition has hosted Sunshine Week activities since 2007, when it launched the Sunshine Center housed at Elon University. In 2015, the coalition began its annual awards program, recognizing individuals and organizations that strengthen and protect the public’s right to know.
For more information regarding the summit and sponsorship opportunities, contact Brooks Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org or Shannan Bowen at email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: This story is a part of the HealthEU series, exploring Elon programs, events and resources that promote integrated wellness of one or more dimensions. View the HealthEU website to learn more.