February 17, 2017

Each day, early in the morning, during lunch or when they’re done covering politics and courts in Naples, Florida, three young journalists turn back to the news.

Alexandra Glorioso, 29, Brett Murphy, 25, and Joseph Cranney, 25, all work together at the Naples Daily News. They also curate a weekly newsletter highlighting local watchdog journalism. For up to an hour each day, they scan more than 100 newspapers across the country for strong work, from Orange County, California to Buffalo, New York and everything in between.

Then, each Sunday, they spend another few hours collecting it all into a weekly newsletter, Local Matters.

The idea came from Cranney, who used to sit next to Glorioso in the Daily News newsroom. One day he came in and told her he was tired of seeing national stories get all the attention. So they set out to find local watchdog journalism that matters to the communities where it’s reported. Using Newseum’s app, they each look at more than 30 papers every day for work that stands out.

“We don’t want people to miss that stuff,” Cranney said. “We want it to be read and shared — to inspire reporters to do their own good, local work and to give a nod to local reporters who produce journalism that impacts their community.”

The newsletter, which launched last fall, has more than 1,400 subscribers and an open rate between 33 and 35 percent.

Like another journalist who started a local news newsletter, Cranney and his colleagues have also found something to be hopeful about after searching for news in other places. There are reporters across the country who are really good at their jobs, he said. And they’re doing watchdog work not just at the local level, but at the hyper-local level.

Take, for example, Eric Eyre’s reporting on dubious prescription drug companies in West Virginia.

“It’s a piece of journalism that could save lives, and it’s about what’s happening in local towns as small as Kermit, West Virginia – population 392,” Cranney said. “We’ve seen that kind of commitment to local investigative reporting in newspapers stretching from West Virginia to Florida, across the country to California.”

The three mostly review daily newspapers, but they’re open to local digital and weeklies, Cranney said.

And while they’re all nervous about the future of local news, seeing what’s possible at the small scale has helped them connect with scrappy journalists around the country, Glorioso said.

“…That in and of itself is inspiring, that people are still out there reporting given all the financial restrains and the takeovers and buyouts and shops closing,” she said. “People are still out there doing good work. There has to be hope in that.”

Related: (Poynter’s launching a newsletter with a local focus next week. Local Edition will explore innovation in local news.)

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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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