How 6 newsrooms in Charlotte are trying to create a local news ecosystem

March 14, 2019

On Thursday, Solutions Journalism Network announced a partnership that brings together local newsrooms and institutions in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Charlotte Journalism Collaborative will spend its first year covering that city’s affordable housing crisis.

Last month, The Knight Foundation announced $300 million toward rebuilding local news ecosystems in the next several years. Solutions Journalism Network got $5 million of that money and is putting $150,000 toward the Charlotte collaborative. (Disclosure: Knight helps fund my coverage of local news.)

The newsrooms and community partners involved in the collaborative are: The Charlotte Observer, a McClatchy newsroom; La Noticia, a Spanish language newspaper; WCNC, a TEGNA TV station; QCity Metro, an African American online news site; WFAE, the local NPR station; and QNotes, an LGBTQ publication. They’ll partner with the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Free Press.

According to a press release, they’ll start publishing in the spring.

That kind of local partnership, which includes big and small local newsrooms covering different communities, “is by far one of the most solid ways to start developing a culture of collaboration in a city or a region,” said Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media.

On Wednesday, Murray wrote about the kind of collaborations journalism needs, including local news ecosystems.

Outside funding, she said, like what’s happening in Charlotte, helps guarantee a level of success. And, she said, the diversity of newsrooms helps grow the impact and reach of the work.

As major newspapers continue shrinking, more cities are starting to build ecosystems that focus on better coverage instead of competition. Knight’s February funding announcement included other ecosystem-strengthening projects, such as ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network and Report for America.

At the local level, newsrooms around the country are starting to work together to cover statehouses, including in Illinois, Oregon, Florida and Pennsylvania. Newsrooms in Philadelphia are working together through Broke in Philly to cover economic justice. Newsrooms in New York and New Jersey worked together to cover an election and general coverage. Small local newsrooms in New York are working together to cover the opioid crisis. And local TV newsrooms are starting to collaborate.

“Trust starts at the local level,” said Karen Rundlet, Knight Foundation director for journalism, in a press release. “That’s why creating a strong future for local news organizations is so important to fostering the kind of communities where people are able to shape-decision making, connect and find common ground. Solutions Journalism is part of a larger network of organizations working to rebuild local news ecosystems in communities across the United States. We all have the opportunity to be part of this change.”