Local news organizations work hard to document and uncover information that residents of their communities need to make decisions and thrive. This is especially true in a major election year like this one, when national and local media alike will rightly emphasize the ballot box.

But democracy requires much more than voting. As local news leaders look to steward resources well in this economic and societal moment, we challenge local news organizations to smartly deploy their resources around the elections that most matter to their communities in 2024 — and also to think about how that energy builds to something more robust and sustained.

In our work to support the wellness of news organizations, we talk about all the behaviors — internal and external — that add up to a healthy news organization. Do leaders give specific critiques, but not specific praise? Are there processes established for onboarding new hires and developing talent? Do they champion community engagement and robust feedback loops that center community?

We can view democracy through this lens, too. What behaviors matter for making it healthy? Voting is one concrete behavior that many journalists encourage. Other behaviors might include knowing and informing others of their rights and the extent of their rights; joining a neighborhood group to advocate for change; practicing and praising values like humility and compassion; or finding opportunities to learn one another’s views and needs, and find compromise or other ways forward.

Our partner news organizations across the country frequently cover or support behaviors like this. You see it when:

This country’s founders enshrined freedom of the press in our Constitution because they saw the press as a necessary check on government and a facilitator of the free flow of information people need to make decisions about their communities. So in an environment where journalists are talking about being “pro-democracy” — and voting is so necessarily front of mind — what decisions can we make this year that show what else we mean? How might news organizations lift up or even cultivate some of the above behaviors locally, the ones that make sense for their context? And how do news organizations connect those ideas to how they shape election coverage in 2024?

At the American Press Institute, we are placing significant energy in helping newsrooms around a range of election reporting needs. With The Associated Press, we are listening to news leaders about what they need and how they want to better serve their communities around local elections. We will soon respond with training opportunities based on what we heard. We plan to help journalists understand where Americans are looking for election information and what they are looking for, and from whom. We aim to enable new experiments. Trusting News, fiscally hosted at API, is part of a terrific collaboration with Hearken and Solutions Journalism Network enabling experiments that “advance democracy,” one you can learn from today. Our Product Strategy team is helping news organizations reflect a broader range of voices in election coverage via SourceMatters.

We also look forward to helping media leaders plan ahead — and to imagine what’s possible. What comes after the election results are final? And how do you begin today to bridge the gap between your election reporting and your wider efforts that help people make decisions and thrive?

If you are interested in helping your news organization support a healthy democratic culture this election year but also beyond, please reach out to Kevin or Sam to hear how we might help. And if you are interested in partnering or financially supporting such efforts to help local news be a robust force in building healthy democratic culture, please let us know that, too.

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