The year we see the future of local news won't look like its past – Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard

Nieman Lab.
Predictions for
Journalism
, 2024.
 
In 2024, the journalism community will recognize just how different the future of local news is going to look compared with its past.
That future is already here. A recent Washington Post article reported on the swell of trained journalists and other content creators leveraging social media and messaging platforms to meet audiences where they are. The article also delved into the decline of trust, traffic, and advertising dollars to legacy media outlets, as readers under 35 search for news sources that “feel more relevant.”
This phenomenon is not new — it has just gone unrecognized. I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness when I penned a white paper in 2018 titled “The Rise of New Jacks: How They Got Here, Where They Are, And Where They Are Likely To Go Next” for the Gates Foundation, highlighting Flint Beat, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, and more.
Last year, I went even deeper into journalism’s non-traditional future when the Pivot Fund supported seven Georgia news organizations — all led by people of color, primarily scrappy, non-traditional one- or two-person operations in rural areas. Most relied on social media, notably Facebook, to disperse content and still do. However, Pivot’s transformational investments helped these BIPOC-led organizations better impact the communities they already successfully served.
Among these grantees is Pasa La Voz, a Facebook page serving Spanish-speaking immigrants in Savannah, covering everything from hurricanes to access to clean water to community events. After the grant, publisher Elizabeth Galarza hired the editor-in-chief and sales manager of the Spanish-language outlet in neighboring Charleston, S.C., and merged the publications. Now, Pasa La Voz Noticias has a website and a WhatsApp product in addition to a Facebook audience, and convenes locals with in-person cultural community events that attract thousands of people and thousands of dollars in sponsorships.
Hyperlocal outlets like Pasa la Voz, BeeTV, and Notivisión Georgia are completely off journalism philanthropy’s radar screen because they don’t look like digital versions of legacy news outlets. But that’s exactly the point: The landscape analysis that Pivot Fund did for the Georgia News Collaborative revealed that people of color — who make up more than half of Georgia’s population — don’t trust legacy outlets because of the outlets’ history of ignoring or stereotyping their communities.
We find and fund these outlets by literally meeting audiences where they are — going into towns and neighborhoods and asking, “Where do you get your news and information, and who do you trust?”
The Pivot Fund’s approach reflects the seismic shift in news consumption documented not only by the Post but by Pew Research, which found roughly half of Americans get news from social media, with Facebook the largest source but TikTok growing fastest.
The Post dove into the challenges of this changing landscape, including a lack of journalism training and ethics, editorial influence from special interest groups, and disinformation masquerading as news. Pivot deals with these challenges by finding news outlets that have already earned the trust of their community, then vets them to ensure they operate in line with journalistic principles and ethics.
In 2024, The Pivot Fund team will expand to the Midwest, conducting landscape analyses in several states (including Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota) to identify news outlets trusted by people of color and young people. Like explorers, we’ll document a landscape that already exists but hasn’t yet been mapped. That landscape is the future of local news.

Tracie Powell is CEO of The Pivot Fund.
In 2024, the journalism community will recognize just how different the future of local news is going to look compared with its past.
That future is already here. A recent Washington Post article reported on the swell of trained journalists and other content creators leveraging social media and messaging platforms to meet audiences where they are. The article also delved into the decline of trust, traffic, and advertising dollars to legacy media outlets, as readers under 35 search for news sources that “feel more relevant.”
This phenomenon is not new — it has just gone unrecognized. I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness when I penned a white paper in 2018 titled “The Rise of New Jacks: How They Got Here, Where They Are, And Where They Are Likely To Go Next” for the Gates Foundation, highlighting Flint Beat, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, and more.
Last year, I went even deeper into journalism’s non-traditional future when the Pivot Fund supported seven Georgia news organizations — all led by people of color, primarily scrappy, non-traditional one- or two-person operations in rural areas. Most relied on social media, notably Facebook, to disperse content and still do. However, Pivot’s transformational investments helped these BIPOC-led organizations better impact the communities they already successfully served.
Among these grantees is Pasa La Voz, a Facebook page serving Spanish-speaking immigrants in Savannah, covering everything from hurricanes to access to clean water to community events. After the grant, publisher Elizabeth Galarza hired the editor-in-chief and sales manager of the Spanish-language outlet in neighboring Charleston, S.C., and merged the publications. Now, Pasa La Voz Noticias has a website and a WhatsApp product in addition to a Facebook audience, and convenes locals with in-person cultural community events that attract thousands of people and thousands of dollars in sponsorships.
Hyperlocal outlets like Pasa la Voz, BeeTV, and Notivisión Georgia are completely off journalism philanthropy’s radar screen because they don’t look like digital versions of legacy news outlets. But that’s exactly the point: The landscape analysis that Pivot Fund did for the Georgia News Collaborative revealed that people of color — who make up more than half of Georgia’s population — don’t trust legacy outlets because of the outlets’ history of ignoring or stereotyping their communities.
We find and fund these outlets by literally meeting audiences where they are — going into towns and neighborhoods and asking, “Where do you get your news and information, and who do you trust?”
The Pivot Fund’s approach reflects the seismic shift in news consumption documented not only by the Post but by Pew Research, which found roughly half of Americans get news from social media, with Facebook the largest source but TikTok growing fastest.
The Post dove into the challenges of this changing landscape, including a lack of journalism training and ethics, editorial influence from special interest groups, and disinformation masquerading as news. Pivot deals with these challenges by finding news outlets that have already earned the trust of their community, then vets them to ensure they operate in line with journalistic principles and ethics.
In 2024, The Pivot Fund team will expand to the Midwest, conducting landscape analyses in several states (including Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota) to identify news outlets trusted by people of color and young people. Like explorers, we’ll document a landscape that already exists but hasn’t yet been mapped. That landscape is the future of local news.

Tracie Powell is CEO of The Pivot Fund.
 
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The Nieman Journalism Lab is a collaborative attempt to figure out how quality journalism can survive and thrive in the Internet age.
It’s a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

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