78 episodes

From Northeastern University's School of Journalism. Local news, the bedrock of democracy, is in crisis. Dan Kennedy of Northeastern University and veteran Boston Globe editor Ellen Clegg talk to journalists, policymakers and entrepreneurs about what's working to keep local news alive.

What Works: The Future of Local News Dan Kennedy and Ellen Clegg

    • News
    • 5.0 • 9 Ratings

From Northeastern University's School of Journalism. Local news, the bedrock of democracy, is in crisis. Dan Kennedy of Northeastern University and veteran Boston Globe editor Ellen Clegg talk to journalists, policymakers and entrepreneurs about what's working to keep local news alive.

    Episode 78 | Josh Stearns

    Episode 78 | Josh Stearns

    Dan talks with Josh Stearns, the senior director of the Public Square Program at Democracy Fund. The Democracy Fund is an independent foundation that works for something very basic and increasingly important: to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges. Josh leads the foundation's work rebuilding local news. The Democracy Fund supports media leaders, defends press freedom, and holds social media platforms accountable. (Ellen was stuck in traffic somewhere on the Zakim Bridge in Boston for the duration of this show, but she'll return next episode!)
    In our Quick Takes, Dan poaches in Ellen's territory and reports on a development in Iowa, the Hawkeye State.   When two local weekly newspapers near Iowa City recently got into trouble, their owner found an unusual buyer: The Daily Iowan, the independent nonprofit student newspaper. Now there are plans to supplement local coverage with contributions from student journalists. It’s not something Dan would like to see everywhere — after all, we want to make sure there are jobs for student journalists after they graduate. But at least in this case, it sounds like the Iowa solution is going to be good for the weekly papers, good for the students and good for the communities they serve.
     

    • 36 min
    Episode 77 | Kyle Munson

    Episode 77 | Kyle Munson

    Dan and Ellen talk with Kyle Munson, president of the Western Iowa Journalism Foundation. The foundation was launched in August 2020, during the heart of the pandemic. It was a challenging time for newspapers. As Dan and Ellen wrote in their book, "What Works in Community News," the Storm Lake Times Pilot saw a real collapse in local advertising. Art Cullen, the editor, was worried about survival.
    The foundation is set up as a nonprofit, so it can receive tax-free donations and philanthropic grants. In turn, it has doled out grants to small papers in western Iowa, including the Carroll Times Herald, La Prensa, and the Times Pilot. These grants were critical because the crisis in local news has hit rural areas hard. 
    Dan has a Quick Take on The Associated Press, which is the principal source of international and national news for local newspapers around the country — and in many cases for state coverage as well. Two major newspaper chains have announced that they are going to use the AP a lot less than they used to, which will result in less money for the AP — and either higher fees, less coverage or both for their remaining clients.
    Ellen looks at Outlier Media, a woman-led team of local journalists in Detroit. They formed a network called the Collaborative Detroit Newsrooms network to produce and share news for underserved populations. They've won a major international award from the Association of Media Information and Communication. Executive editor Candice Fortman traveled to Barcelona to pick up the juried prize. 
     

    • 37 min
    Episode 76 | Emily Rooney

    Episode 76 | Emily Rooney

    Dan and Ellen talk with Emily Rooney, the longtime host of the award-winning show on WGBH-TV, "Beat The Press." Dan was a panelist on "Beat the Press," which had a 22-year run but was canceled in 2021 by GBH. The show, which is much missed by many former viewers, had a brief second life as a podcast.
    Emily has got serious television news cred. She arrived at WGBH from the Fox Network in New York, where she oversaw political coverage, including the 1996 presidential primaries, national conventions, and presidential election. Before that, she was executive producer of ABC’s "World News Tonight" with Peter Jennings. She also worked at WCVB-TV in Boston for 15 years, from 1979–'93, as news director and as assistant news director.
    There's a revival of interest in responsible media criticism. Boston Globe columnist Kimberly Atkins Stohr recently wrote an op-ed calling for the restoration of a public editor position at The New York Times, The Globe and other news outlets. 
    Dan has an update on one of our favorite topics — pink slime. Wired magazine has a wild story out of rural Iowa involving a Linux server in Germany, a Polish website and a Chinese operation called “the Propaganda Department of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” Ellen recounts a legal saga in Southeastern Minnesota involving the sale of a newspaper group and allegations of intellectual property theft. It's all about a single used computer and its role in creating a media startup.
     

    • 32 min
    Episode 75 | Teri Morrow and Wayne Braverman

    Episode 75 | Teri Morrow and Wayne Braverman

    Dan and Ellen talk with Teri Morrow and Wayne Braverman of The Bedford Citizen in the Boston suburb of Bedford, Massachusetts. Wayne is a longtime journalist who is now serving as the managing editor of the Citizen. Teri, the executive director, has lived in Bedford since 1996, and has been active in local government. Dan wrote the chapter on this homegrown, grass-roots news site in "What Works in Community News." In the book, he tells the story about how the free digital site grew out of co-founder Julie McCay Turner's desire to find a home for information on a church plant sale.
    Dan has a Quick Take on an unlikely good news story. The media industry is in the midst of another painful downturn, with news organizations from The Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times to CNN cutting their newsrooms and with The Messenger, a high-profile national startup that never seemed to make sense, shutting down after less than a year. But there's one news organization that’s hiring journalists and that says it’s succeeding at the very tough job of selling ads. You won’t believe who he's talking about, so stay tuned. 
    Ellen talks about the robots that may come to steal our jobs. Or at least help us compile real estate listings and police blotters. It's all part of an initiative undertaken by that venerable journalistic organization, the Associated Press. 
     
     

    • 37 min
    Episode 74 | Laura Pappano

    Episode 74 | Laura Pappano

    Ellen talks with Laura Pappano, an award-winning journalist who has written about education for more than 30 years. Laura has a new book out from Beacon Press. The title is "School Moms: Parent Activism, Partisan Politics, and the Battle for Public Education." By the way, Beacon also published our book, “What Works in Community News.”  Dan and Ellen are recording their segments separately, because Ellen was travelling. So, don't worry, they're not breaking up.
    Ellen has a Quick Take on a philanthropic gift from Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, that is designed to cover full tuition for many graduate students in journalism at the City University of New York. That's good news for students wondering whether to take on $50,000 or more in tuition debt to get a master's degree in journalism at a private university. Craigslist destroyed the classified ad market, but Newmark continues to make his mark as a philanthropist. 
     Dan offers two cheers for billionaire newspaper ownership. With the news business dealing with a difficult round of layoffs, a number of media observers have jumped to the conclusion that billionaire owners are not the solution to what ails journalism. Well, of course it isn’t. No one ever said otherwise. But the record shows that civic-minded ownership by wealthy owners has proven to be a workable solution in several cities. 

    • 27 min
    Episode 73 | Wendi C. Thomas

    Episode 73 | Wendi C. Thomas

    We talk with Wendi C. Thomas, the editor and publisher of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Thomas founded MLK50 in 2017 as a one-year project designed to focus on the antipoverty work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Dr. King had traveled to Memphis in April of 1968 to support striking sanitation workers who were fighting for safer working conditions and a living wage.
    But MLK50 became much more than a one-year project. She and her staff have gone on to produce journalism that has changed the dialogue, and changed lives, in Memphis. Her work has garnered numerous awards. In 2020, she was the winner of the Selden Ring Award for her groundbreaking investigative series, "Profiting from the Poor," an investigation of a nonprofit hospital that sued poor patients over medical debt. The series, co-published with ProPublica, had major impact: the hospital erased $11.9 million in medical debt. MLK50 is one of the projects that we profile in our book, “What Works in Community News.”
    Ellen has a Quick Take on the situation at Houston Landing, a highly anticipated and well-funded nonprofit newsroom that launched in 2023. Dan's Quick Take is on The Baltimore Sun, the venerable 186-year-old daily newspaper that at one time was home to the infamously caustic writer H.L. Mencken. Earlier this month, Alden Global Capital sold the Sun to a right-wing television executive who hates newspapers. But not to fear — public interest journalism is alive and well in Baltimore, as Dan will explain.
     

    • 26 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
9 Ratings

9 Ratings

Not-nate ,

Engaging & Informative

In 2022 my wife and I suddenly found ourselves purchasing and owning a weekly newspaper in rural Idaho.
We have no background or training in journalism and this podcast has been a significant part of my education about the industry and what other small outlets are doing to solve some of the same problems we face. Highly recommend. (I was born and raised in Maine so I enjoy hearing the accents of hosts and guests as well.)

irisg ,

Informative look at local journalism

An interesting lineup of guests from around the country. I really enjoy hearing about their experiences and different perspectives on covering local news. This is a good podcast on a vital topic. And the two hosts have a great rapport.

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