Facebook and Google are giving more lip service (and boot camps) to local news


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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On the heels of Facebook’s first local news conference this week, Google announced a new subscription boot camp for eight local publishers in the U.S. and Canada. The Local Media Association is partnering with the Google News Initiative to carry out the six-month program, bringing in consultants to evaluate and revamp their subscription process. “Those chosen must be dedicated to figuring out a subscriptions strategy with buy-in and direct involvement from the highest executives (including the CEO) in their respective companies. They’ll come with open minds, a willingness to experiment and a community spirit built around sharing what they learn along the way. We’re looking to help these eight publishers make significant leaps forward with their subscription businesses, the kinds of leaps that can transform these organizations,” LMA president Nancy Lane wrote in Google’s blog post about the effort. It sounds similar to Facebook’s subscription accelerator for local news Continue reading "Facebook and Google are giving more lip service (and boot camps) to local news"

50,000 first-time donors? Here’s how four nonprofit organizations used NewsMatch to the fullest


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$14 million. That’s how much money might not have otherwise made its way into nonprofit news outlets’ bank accounts without NewsMatch, the three-year-old, foundation-funded, end-of-year donation matching campaign. 93 percent of NewsMatch participants said the campaign helped them raise more money than they otherwise would have. The campaign caught the budding nonprofit news sector at a critical stage in its growth and is giving it a jetstream by helping coach newsrooms, funders, and individual donors into seeding its future. So — how did they raise all that money? And what did they learn along the way? The “out-of-the-box,
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“The widest shoulders carry the heaviest load”: A Danish socialist outlet charges membership fees based on personal income


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A recently launched news outlet in Denmark is taking an approach Fox News might be intimidated by: an explicitly socialist membership scale.
According to [Solidaritet.dk] chief editor Morten Hammeken, the goal is to create a media that is independent of party interests, but which has a clear socialist agenda: “Our starting point is socialism and class struggle, and our opponent is the minority who sits on the vast majority of the values ​​in society and who also dominates the vast majority of the media,” says Morten Hammeken in a press release.
That’s Google Translate from another Danish site, so apologies if there are some misinterpretations. (Dag = day, maned = month — that chart outlines how much you should expect to pay based on your income.) Solidaritet explains “in Solidarity we mean that the widest shoulders carry the heaviest load. Therefore, our membership income Continue reading "“The widest shoulders carry the heaviest load”: A Danish socialist outlet charges membership fees based on personal income"

Facebook enters the news desert battle, trying to find enough local news for its Today In feature


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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News deserts are at the core of journalism’s crisis today — the communities left behind as news organizations hamstrung by declining ad revenues focus more on the country’s coastal, wealthy, metropolitan areas. Facebook — the server of information to two-thirds of American adults, powered by digital advertising — thinks it can help, by sharing data and some more grants/mentorship for community builders. About 1,300 U.S. communities have completely lost news coverage as more than one in five newspapers have closed over the past 15 years, according to University of North Carolina professor <a href="https://twitter.com/businessofnews%3EPenelope%20Abernathy’s%3C/a%3E%20%3Ca%20href="http://www.niemanlab.org/2018/10/where-are-the-weeklies-still-kicking-penelope-abernathys-news-desert-report-says/">study on the news desert phenomenon. The lack of meaningful local news (the Momo hoax doesn’t count) can lead to fracturing trust in communities, trickle-down polarization from national news, and general chaos for democracy. Facebook, as you may have heard, is trying to be in the business of meaningful interactions and building communities rather than breaking democracy. (Or at least that was the idea before Mark Zuckerberg’s recent pivot to direct messaging and the subsequent departure of his chief product officer.) A NewsWhip study recently found that the platform’s meaningful interactions refocus has contributed to many more angry reactions — not exactly warm and fuzzy connections. Here’s where Facebook hopes local news can come in: Within its news partnerships team, Facebook emphasized its support for local news this year with a $300 million commitment with donations to journalism efforts like the American Journalism Project and Report for America, membership and subscription coaching, and more TBA. Since January 2018, Facebook also shifted its algorithm in favor of local news, though some local outlets can be ridiculously generous with what they consider to be relevant to their audiences. The company says there’s a user consumption case to be made here: 50 percent of users in one of its studies said they want to see more local news and community information on the platform. Facebook’s attempt to meet that request is Today In, a News Feed module collecting local news articles, community groups, and posts from relevant local pages like schools. It originally launched in six cities and expanded to 400 in November. (Also, it offers an end to Facebook’s trademark infinite scroll, which I find thrilling: “You’re All Caught Up.”) Today In has garnered 1.1 million subscribers who opted to turn on updates for the feature, according to Anthea Watson Strong, Facebook’s local news product lead. “In the fall of 2017 we started saying we think one of the primary problems here isn’t just that people want this content, but they don’t have it in their News Feed because they’re not following these pages and their friends aren’t sharing this content in their News Feed,” Strong told me. “We started experimenting with an unconnected content strategy where we say, ‘We think you’re interested in local news. We’re going to allow you to opt in to seeing more and when you do that we’re going to give you the top stuff from the pages that meet that definition, rather than require you to follow every news page or join every group.'” But sometimes there simply isn’t enough local news to serve up Today In in a meaningful way, Facebook said in data released today:
To build Today In, we needed to know, for any given community in the US, what local news was available on Facebook at a given time. Through a five-step algorithmic process, we learned how much local journalism is being shared on Facebook in towns across the country. We also learned where the holes are — places where we can’t identify enough regular local reporting on Facebook. About one in three users in the US live in places where we cannot find enough local news on Facebook to launch Today In. What does that mean exactly? In the last 28 days, there has not been a single day where we’ve been able to find five or more recent news articles directly related to these towns. This does not vary much by region: 35% of users in the Midwest, Northeast, and South — and 26% in the West — live in places where we can’t find much local news on Facebook. The maps below show county-level detail on places we can — and can’t — find enough local news on Facebook to launch Today In.

Measurement of news deserts is a system still very much in development. Flimsy datasets are out there, but Abernathy’s database is one of the most cited. She and three other news desert researchers — Nicco Mele of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, Phil Napoli of Duke University, and University of Minnesota’s Matthew Weber — will have access to a snapshot of Facebook’s local news data from February, according to Today In’s product marketing manger Jimmy O’Keefe. Abernathy told me via email she’s optimistic: “This new data has the potential to help academic researchers who are documenting the loss of local news gain additional insight into what sort of ‘local news’ is available on Facebook and being shared in communities throughout the country and how the availability or lack of local news correlates with the rise of news deserts.” As Facebook tries to boost Today In in the 400 markets and beyond, should — blergh — publishers try to latch on? The platform has given many a social media manager whiplash with its algorithm changes and priority shifts, and head of news partnerships Campbell Brown has repeatedly tried to turn publishers away from Facebook as a reliant traffic source. “The TLDR is there’s nothing publishers should do for their content to surface on Today In,” O’Keefe said. “We are mindful of the fact that publishers have constrained resources and other priorities.” But the news articles are key to the Today In cluster, Strong said: “The news links center that experience…We’re trying to make it discoverable and put it all in the same place. We do know those news links are most often at the top and most often thing we put in the digest. That’s really the content people talk about the most when we ask them about the experience of Today In.” 🚨 Remember, though, local news can sometimes be used maliciously. Russia tried to take advantage of local news’ widespread trust to sow disinformation in the 2016 election, according to NYU research. And recently a Snopes investigation uncovered shady ties between political operatives and new local outlets in Tennessee, Ohio, and Minnesota. Facebook…doesn’t exactly have the best track record here. “All of the integrity work you’ve heard about, that all applies here. We’re looking at the same signals News Feed looks at and thinking about what content are we comfortable with on Today In,” Strong said. Facebook is also announcing a new grant and mentorship network to fund and strengthen ideas on how local news can help build community. Around 100 applicants will be selected via a Lenfest Institute call for applications in May (they’re looking for existing publishers, startups, and/or other community partners) to be paired up with other brains (and maybe money) using the alumni network of its local news membership and subscription accelerators. “The real criteria is is if you’re doing something that would help build a stronger community of some kind,” said Anne Kornblut, a former Washington Post and New York Times reporter now at Facebook as the director of new initiatives under news partnerships. “We’re quite open [and looking for] something that shows promise on the business front and needs an extra kick to make it work.”

Nine local partners in Charlotte form a new reporting collaborative, with Solutions Journalism Network and the Knight Foundation


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Continuing its efforts at building local journalism collaborations, the Solutions Journalism Network is partnering with the Knight Foundation to launch a nine-member collaborative focused on Charlotte, North Carolina. The Charlotte Journalism Collaborative will be comprised of:
  1. The Charlotte Observer
  2. Latinx-focused La Noticia
  3. Tegna-owned WCNC-TV
  4. QCity Metro serving the African American community
  5. NPR news station WFAE 90.7 FM
  6. LGBTQ-geared QNotes
  7. The Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte
  8. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, and
  9. News advocacy/community engagement group Free Press.
It will spend its first year jointly reporting on the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte, based in a metropolitan area of 2 million people, beginning this spring. (The grant lasts for two years with the hopes of the collaborative, according to Knight, “grow to include other media organizations and become self-sustaining.”) A Charlotte Observer story last month described the crisis:
The Charlotte region’s population increased by 15 percent Continue reading "Nine local partners in Charlotte form a new reporting collaborative, with Solutions Journalism Network and the Knight Foundation"

How to build a newsroom culture that cares about metrics beyond pageviews


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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Managing metrics is kind of exactly what a lot of journalists didn’t sign up for. (Statistics? You want me to do math?) But it’s exactly what newsrooms need to improve on. What stories do readers find most valuable? What kind of content moves readers along the subscription funnel? What signals show that subscribers are adding back to the community? What kind of traffic is meaningful to the organization’s business and editorial goals? As newsrooms try to figure out how to build better trust with their audiences, they’re also grappling with which questions to ask. Hint: A lot of those questions — and some of the answers — are probably lurking somewhere in your analytics dashboard. A new American Press Institute report from Melody Kramer and Betsy O’Donovan (both former Nieman Fellows) offers some metrics on newsroom metrics, based on interviews with two dozen journalists and data analysts from 20 Continue reading "How to build a newsroom culture that cares about metrics beyond pageviews"

Collaborating at the Capitol: A new Illinois reporting service nearly doubles the number of statehouse journalists


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Serving the thousand or so people of Roseville, Illinois, the Roseville Independent is an “occasional” newspaper with 143 subscribers and a Facebook page followed by as much as half of the town’s population. It now also regularly publishes explainers on the state’s government happenings and policy debates (including those still in committee!). How? Through Capitol News Illinois, a new service from the Illinois Press Foundation, journalism on topics like the implications of the newly raised $15 minimum wage, skipping answering the census next year, and the governor’s promise of revenue from legalized cannabis could again become commonplace in Illinois newspapers. Note those links are from the Southern Illinoisan, the Decatur-based Herald-Review, and the Rockford Star, a sampling of the 250 newspapers (out of IPF’s 440 members) that have published CNI’s reporting since it launched in January. Roseville, about 226 miles miles west of Chicago
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The New York Times wants to know your religion, marital status, Insta handle, hobbies, areas of expertise…


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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The New York Times wants to know more about you. It’s now asking readers to fill out a form detailing their contact info, online presence, occupation, race, political leanings, interests, and more. (“What are your interests or hobbies? Please be as specific as possible. For example: photography, sprint triathlons, narrative non-fiction writing, doing crosswords, hunting.” “List any organizations or affiliations, if any. For example, do you belong to any advocacy groups or trade associations? What school(s) did you graduate from?”) It’s an initiative recently tweeted out by the Times’ editor of digital storytelling and training and digital transition editor, with the pure headline “Help Us Cover The News”:
The perspectives of our audience are invaluable to our journalists, helping us better understand the news and our world. This year, we are expanding our efforts to include readers’ experiences, and we would love to add your voice… Continue reading "The New York Times wants to know your religion, marital status, Insta handle, hobbies, areas of expertise…"

Five recommendations (and many examples) for how to nurture engagement in European newsrooms


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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The Engaged Journalism Accelerator, boosting a dozen European media organizations’ engagement strategies, is working to change that continent’s reporting culture and compiled some recommendations for (and solid examples of) news outlets putting engagement at their core. The accelerator’s report, compiled by Madalina Ciobanu, Kathryn Geels, and Ben Whitelaw, pulls together five recommendations from the convening of 30 engaged journalism practitioners (and includes their detailed process of developing the summit). It also highlights specific examples of European newsrooms making progress with engagement that are worthwhile to consider elsewhere. Warning: These findings are explicitly for people who already buy into the importance of engagement journalism, the process of involving the community/audience in the reporting process from ideation to distribution. But hey, if you’re unfamiliar or undecided, here’s an explainer, some more recent highlights, and a database of 100 European outlets already putting engagement into action. Continue reading "Five recommendations (and many examples) for how to nurture engagement in European newsrooms"

Spirited Media is selling off its local sites and pivoting to consulting


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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Spirited Media — the startup network of three city-centered and millennial-focused news sites, one of the brightest hopes for a digital-native, sustainable, replicable model for local news — is now Spirited Media the consultancy. On Wednesday, the company announced the sale of one of its sites, Denverite, to Colorado Public Radio and said it was shopping around its other two (Philadelphia’s Billy Penn and Pittsburgh’s The Incline). Spirited’s vice president of strategy Chris Krewson acknowledged they’re throwing in the towel on trying to run local news sites themselves in favor of consulting others who want to.
Now, perceptive reader that you are, you may be wondering what’s next for Spirited Media’s other newsrooms — Billy Penn, which launched in Philadelphia in 2014, and The Incline, which launched in Pittsburgh in 2016. Well, we are also in talks with potential local buyers in those cities as well, and we’re hoping to
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Health coverage loses its booster shot after funding runs out for this media critic


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All of The Platforms™, whether search or social, face issues about surfacing vaccine mis- and disinformation (see: Pinterest’s efforts), and we’re supposed to be filling the data voids with helpful, accurate information to counter the anti-vaxxers. But it’s not only on the conspiracy edges where the media runs into trouble covering health news and research. Less than a third of news stories about health findings sufficiently discussed cost, and less than 40 percent mentioned potential harms or the quality of the evidence, according to a review of more than 2,600 health news articles by HealthNewsReview, a journalistically-driven site that analyzed health reporting. (Don’t even get started on the press releases.) Ten percent of the articles received a one or zero star rating on HealthNewsReview’s scorecard, with 14 percent hitting a perfect five stars. What does that look like? A one-star story, for example, is The Continue reading "Health coverage loses its booster shot after funding runs out for this media critic"

With muddily funded sites emerging in swing states, the race is on to rebuild transparent local news


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Remember the Denver Guardian, that fake news site di tutti fake news sites? Now you have more examples to think of when talking about fraudulent local news sites that want to mess with swing state politics. Meet The Tennessee Star, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun, all part of a new network from Tea Party-connected conservative activists, a Snopes investigation found. The Denver Guardian was a fake local news site that, days before the 2016 election, had its “FBI AGENT SUSPECTED IN HILLARY EMAIL LEAKS FOUND DEAD IN APPARENT MURDER-SUICIDE” headline blasted across Facebook, with over half a million shares. (Debunk by the Denver Post, actual local news site, here.) The site was spearheaded by a suburban dad who allegedly wanted to point out how easily right-wing readers can be hooked — and targeting local news, the most trusted news source, helped, he told NPR:
Continue reading "With muddily funded sites emerging in swing states, the race is on to rebuild transparent local news"

Here’s the state of African-American media today — and steps it can take going forward


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“It’s important that we stop thinking of ethnic media as a ‘nice to have,’ as something on the side. It’s a must have,” Glenn Burkins of Q City Metro, a Charlotte-based African-American news website, said at the Knight Media Forum earlier this week. Discussions about how to better amplify and support diverse media are still a core part of the future of the industry — and the numbers are unfortunately still dismal — but it helps to have a data-driven understanding of the state of ethnic media now. Appropriately, Democracy Fund released a report on the state of African-American media in the last days of Black History Month here in the U.S. It includes a detailed history of African-American media, from the 1800s’ Freedom’s Journal and Frederick Douglass’ The North Star — creating a legacy of, according to the late Columbia Journalism professor Phyllis Garland, “never [intending] Continue reading "Here’s the state of African-American media today — and steps it can take going forward"

“Local leads to trust”: The examples shared and pledges made at the Knight Media Forum


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On the heels of its $300 million commitment to local news, free speech, and media literacy — and its commission-generated report espousing transparency and diversity — the Knight Foundation hosted its regular gathering of funders, fundees, and other smart journalism folk. This year had a special focus on sustainability in local news and encouraging other local funders to step up beyond Knight’s home bases of Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. (Disclosure: Knight has been a Nieman Lab funder in the past.) Those funders, journalists, and yes librarians too gathered in Miami this week. Presentations largely centered on amplifying diverse local news efforts to rebuild trust in the media more broadly, with a danah boyd keynote; the staple AI + ethics panel with Julia Angwin, Craig Newmark, and others; a showcase of exemplary projects like City Bureau and Resolve Philadelphia; and the launch of the American Journalism Project, a
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A tax on digital ad spend (*cough* Facebook and Google) could bring in $2 billion for journalism


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Facebook and Google aren’t going to stop targeting ads to Internet users, and advertisers aren’t likely to stop loving the data that get their wares in front of super-specific eyeballs. So could a tax on those billions of targeted ad dollars be what it takes to help support journalism of value? A new paper from advocacy group Free Press (the same folks who are close to getting the New Jersey government to budget money for local news innovation) argues that tax revenue devoted to quality journalism could be a silver lining in the very tool that foreign states and sneaker companies use to spread disinformation and sell shoes based on an incredible amount of user information, respectively. “Free Press believes a sound approach to addressing this dangerous system is an old one: taxes. In this case, a tax would be levied against targeted advertising to fund the kind of Continue reading "A tax on digital ad spend (*cough* Facebook and Google) could bring in $2 billion for journalism"

“Philanthropy desperately needs to be more agile”: Molly de Aguiar on grantmaking with local and national media


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As the world of journalism has changed, so has the world of philanthropy. (Except, you know, one has a lot more money and the other is trying to get more of it.) Foundations have been powering up their support for journalism in recent years: More than 6,500 foundations doled out $1.8 billion via 30,000 grants between 2010 and 2015. And in 2018, 57 percent of nonprofit news’ revenue came from foundations, a sizable chunk in a field with almost $350 million in total annual revenue among 200 organizations. Where else could this money have come from — Facebook referral traffic? The sky? “Our findings suggest that many innovative projects and experiments have and continue to take place, but grantmaking remains far below what is needed,” wrote the researchers of the Shorenstein Center and Northeastern University report behind that first set of numbers. Grantmakers are bigger than the checks Continue reading "“Philanthropy desperately needs to be more agile”: Molly de Aguiar on grantmaking with local and national media"

How Mississippi Today and WLBT balance data and broadcast needs while co-investigating stories


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A grant from the Knight Foundation to experiment with cross-medium collaboration was the spark, piquing the interests of newsroom leaders in Mississippi. The project brings together the young nonprofit news site Mississippi Today with Jackson’s NBC affiliate WLBT. More specifically, it’s bringing together Mississippi Today journalist Erica Hensley
with C.J. LeMaster, the TV station’s senior investigative reporter. That’s the short answer. Now for the longer answer: Collaboration “is such a buzzword in journalism right now, and those of us paying attention have known that we’re going to have to figure out how to collaborate, and print and broadcast can’t exist in silos anymore,” Hensley said. “Newspapers teach you how to write concisely and organize your ideas and thoughts and get to the heart of an issue,” LeMaster, who entered journalism via his college newspaper, said. “For broadcast, the challenge is to take that and make it conversational and
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How Your Voice Ohio worked with Youngstown’s WFMJ to highlight solutions in the opioid crisis


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Editor’s note: This is one in a series of case studies on collaborations that involve local TV news, still the top source and most trusted type of news for Americans. Only about 7 percent of collaborations in the Center for Cooperative Media’s database includes partnerships with local TV stations — like this one. Check in over the next few days to see how national, regional, and local partners are teaming up with TV news directors and investigative journalists to harness shared resources through collaborations with local TV news: what works, what doesn’t, and what this means for the future of local news and collaborations.

Remember the 2016 election? (Who could forget it.) For many, it felt like a breaking point between journalists and their audiences; neither party in that pairing seemed to be very good at listening at the other. But the fissure between writer and reader had

Continue reading "How Your Voice Ohio worked with Youngstown’s WFMJ to highlight solutions in the opioid crisis"

How News 12 is working with ProPublica’s Documenting Hate database to track local hate crimes


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ProPublica’s Electionland and Documenting Hate are two clear examples of very specific partnerships that brought in a swath of teammates — including, surprise surprise, local TV journalists. Electionland was its coordinated effort to track polling place integrity and voter suppression issues throughout the country. (I still flinch when I think about all of its logistics.) Documenting Hate, launched after the 2016 election, tracks the rise in hate crimes around the country. “It’s useful to have reach across mediums because they have very different audiences. I think for a project of this size, where we have 160 national and local newsrooms around the country, I think the big thing we want is geographic coverage,” said Rachel Glickhouse, Documenting Hate’s partner manager. She helps recruit partners at the beginning, onboard new ones joining along the way, and flag tips from ProPublica’s incident database for geographically appropriate partners — along Continue reading "How News 12 is working with ProPublica’s Documenting Hate database to track local hate crimes"

Local TV is still the most trusted source of news. So how do you collaborate with a station?


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A squeezed industry, the constant threat of layoffs, a shrinking audience — local news is a tough place to be right now. But sometimes, when everything else feels like it’s falling, teaming up can stretch limited resources a little farther. Collaborations, many argue, will soon be core to the work of local newsrooms — partnering to dig through datasets, sharing resources on specific issues, and amplifying a topic to bring it more attention. But it feels like we often overlook the part of the industry that employs close to the same number that newspapers do (and far more than local digital news sites do). And amidst all the misinformation, manipulation, and general chaos strewn across the media industry these days, this might be the most important number: 76 percent of Americans cite local TV news as a highly trusted source of news, the most of any medium. But of the Continue reading "Local TV is still the most trusted source of news. So how do you collaborate with a station?"