August 31, 2022

If democracy dies in darkness, local news is the power grid.

The Washington Post’s slogan, the first part of that sentence above, is catchy. But it doesn’t mention all the coverage necessary to keep the lights on. The power supply is most critical, and in danger, at the local level.

One small action local newsrooms can take — remind people what’s at stake.

Democracy Day is Sept. 15, and the Center for Cooperative Media is organizing a national collaboration for all media in the United States.

“The Center has been watching news organizations struggle with how to cover threats facing democracy for the past several years, and we’ve struggled with how to support the journalists we work with when it comes to this topic,” said Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, in an email. “Helping to coordinate Democracy Day is our way of trying to raise awareness of the anti-democratic moment our country is in, and give journalists a rallying point to work around and a collaborative framework to work within.”

Newsrooms that want to participate can sign up here. CCM includes story ideas, from low-lifts to those requiring more effort. Partners agree to publish outside a paywall at least one piece of content from the suggestions.

“I loved some of the story ideas,” said Emily Sachar, founder, editor-in-chief and CEO of The Red Hook Daily Catch, an online nonprofit in New York. “For a new newspaper, I needed some guidance on how to think about this issue in a way that was nonpartisan.”

The Daily Catch’s coverage that week will include a story each day. They’re polling the community now and offering readers the chance to share what democracy means to them.

“The concept of democracy is not a political concept,” Sachar said. “The way we implement democracy seems to be an issue. But I think asking a question that both invites people to participate and also sheds light on different views is a way that creates cohesion in our community.”

More than 300 newsrooms and organizations that support newsrooms have signed up to take part. And this week, CCM announced a $125,000 grant from Democracy Fund to expand the project beyond just one day.

“Our hope is that this collaborative grows into something much bigger than one day of reporting,” Murray said. “But we have to start somewhere.”

Read more about Democracy Day and how to take part.

This piece originally appeared in Local Edition, our newsletter devoted to the telling stories of local journalists

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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