The A.I. Elections Advisory Council

A community of leaders working to build social trust and election resilience.

The AI Elections Advisory Council is a constructive space for experts to share key insights across civil society, government, and industry throughout the US elections.

Aspen Digital

The Business of Community

Lessons from the Third Annual Local News Summit

A photo of S. Mitra Kalita with Jim Friedlich at the Local News Summit.
April 23, 2024

Vivian Schiller

V.P. & Executive Director

Jim Friedlich

Executive Director & CEO, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism

Journalists like Fernando Soto are taking a community-driven approach to news, which often goes beyond traditional reporting to help connect community members with information and resources they need to thrive. 

Soto is the editor-in-chief of Pasa La Voz Noticias, a Spanish-language news outlet serving Charleston, S.C. and Savannah, Ga., and on a recent weekend, he was at home when he received a call from a mother who recently immigrated to South Carolina from Venezuela with her two young children and had nowhere to stay. 

Even though he was off-duty, he jumped into action, finding the family a place to stay and connecting them with local service organizations. 

Soto added that community engagement is an essential part of the outlet’s work, and why he decided to found Nuestro Estado, which merged with Pasa La Voz Noticias last year. “People didn’t understand our community. I wanted everyone to feel like it was home,” he said.

S. Mitra Kalita, the founder of URL Media and Epicenter NYC, shared a poignant reminder that news organizations don’t exist in a vacuum. 

Here are some additional ways outlets are centering community in their revenue and audience strategies: 

  • Reconsider what “advocacy” means. Some asked why we consider it journalism when The Wall Street Journal publishes a story on how to avoid capital gains taxes, but it’s advocacy when a local outlet helps individuals access social services. Publications should think of themselves in service of community. 
  • By positioning themselves as “community institutions,” news organizations may open themselves up to government funding opportunities for initiatives that support broadband access and digital literacy. These are strategies that can boost revenue while still respecting editorial independence. 
  • News organizations exist in an ecosystem with other local businesses. Publishers should think about how they can create uplift with other enterprises and connect with other arts organizations, museums, and others.
  • Max Kabat, the owner of the Big Bend Sentinel in Marfa, Texas, said local news organizations should be in the “business of community.” The Sentinel built a coffee shop and event space to deepen its relationship with its community.

Read it Again

Re-read lessons from the third annual Local News Summit.
Elections, A.I., Mergers, and Investments

Elections, A.I., Mergers, and Investments

Lessons from the 3rd annual Local News Summit show how local news leaders are tackling the challenges of our time.

A Make-or-Break Year for Trust in American Democracy

A Make-or-Break Year for Trust in American Democracy

“Democracy is on the brink,” said Guardian columnist Margaret Sullivan, speaking at the 2024 Local News Summit.