Local News Initiative

Sustaining journalism, engaging citizens

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Do you have feedback, observations or suggestions about the local news crisis? Let us know:

With local journalism in crisis, Northwestern University has assembled a team of experts in digital innovation, audience understanding and business strategy. The goal: reinvent the relationship between news organizations and audiences to elevate enterprises that empower citizens.

Local news is critical to our self-governed democracy

Tim Franklin, Senior Associate Dean, Medill

The Problem

Changing business models and shrinking coverage

  • Local news coverage across America is shrinking.

    Without robust local news, citizens will not have the information they need for their everyday lives about their community’s government institutions, schools, businesses and neighbors.

  • The business model that has supported local news reporting in cities across the United States has been greatly disrupted.

    Steep revenue losses have led to cuts that hinder local news outlets’ ability to provide information about local government, civic institutions, businesses, schools and residents. Northwestern and Medill are uniquely positioned for this project because of our nationally recognized, leading-edge data mining, research and development expertise.

  • The crisis in journalism has turned into a crisis of democracy... The reporter shortage means residents don’t have the information to make decisions for their families or to hold institutions accountable.

    Steve Waldman, President, Report for America

The Projects

Understanding audiences and exploring new approaches

What Drives People to Pay for Local Journalism

Medill’s Spiegel Research Center (SRC), a leader in consumer and audience-based research that drives financial outcomes, is analyzing many terabytes of anonymous data about reader behavior and customer motivation at three Learning Labs – the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and Indianapolis Star. The goal: Identify what content and behaviors drive consumers to engage with and pay for local news.

Human-Centered Design for Local News Products

The Northwestern University Knight Lab, renowned for its development of digital storytelling tools and platforms, is interviewing news consumers and assessing data on their online behavior to inspire creation of products, tools and approaches that are designed to improve reader engagement, bolster financial sustainability and better inform citizens.

Understanding Media Markets

Medill is analyzing data from a variety of media markets in a project to correlate local news consumption with other demographic factors in those areas. Each media market has its own personality, and no single solution can cure the problems of local news everywhere. But by identifying common characteristics, we can draw valid comparisons and share innovative ideas.

The News Leaders Project Sustaining the Business of Local Journalism

Medill is conducting in-depth interviews with media industry figures and thought leaders to uncover financial innovations that can sustain local media during this turbulent time. The aim: To empower local news organizations with new possibilities. This research will be integrated with the Local News Initiative’s other work to ensure maximum impact.

The People

The Local News Initiative is led by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Medill, a leader in education since 1921, is conducting groundbreaking research and training a new generation of multimedia journalists and marketing professionals to thrive in an increasingly challenging atmosphere.

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