Local News Ideas-to-Action Series

Centering Audiences for Accountability and Government Reporting

The American Press Institute is launching a new effort to support accountability and government reporting that better prioritizes the needs of local communities.

For news organizations and communities to thrive, coverage of local governance needs to be built for and with the involvement of affected communities. We’re looking for experiments that will help create that kind of innovative coverage.

That’s where our Local News Ideas-to-Action Series comes in. Through discussion, workshop activities and small project funds, we want to help you and your newsroom consider why and how journalists prioritize audience information needs through community engagement and service-oriented reporting and how to deepen relationships with your community to ensure your accountability and governance reporting has impact and remains salient and sustainable.

We’ve taken inspiration from the outlets leading related efforts — such as Outlier Media in Detroit, Documented in New York City and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among many others — to suggest possible paths forward. So what might this journalism look like?

  1. Identifying what local community members know, don’t know, and what they’d like to know about local government and policy and then offering reporting that responds to those information needs.
  2. Helping audiences understand how local government operates, including the responsibilities, decision-making procedures, budgets, and outcomes of government agencies and officials and the rights, obligations, and opportunities of community members.
  3. Reporting that helps locals “navigate” interactions with public systems, such as  accessing unemployment benefits, making vaccine appointments or understanding issues with their utility bills.
  4. Facilitating discussion among and between broad groups of community members about local challenges and possible solutions to those issues that can build trust, inform future coverage, or expand audiences and relationships to reflect more of the community.
  5. Reporting on community efforts and opportunities to address local problems.

This series is open to any newsroom or journalist interested in exploring these themes. We’ll host two open discussions on the above topics, workshop reporting ideas, and offer small project funds, up to $10,000, to help launch projects or expand existing ones.

In our first event on Thursday, June 17, we heard speakers from Outlier Media, Documented and the Philadelphia Inquirer discuss the ways their journalism works to support communities understand and navigate issues of local governance and how prioritizing listening to audiences leads to important accountability journalism. Watch the recording of that conversation here on YouTube.

In July, we welcomed submissions of early project ideas to reach and better serve an audience with accountability and local governance reporting. Speakers from Outlier, Documented and Philadelphia Inquirer responded to questions about common challenges and opportunities at another event July 14. You can watch the recording of the conversation on YouTube. API sent individualized feedback to all who submitted early ideas for feedback.

The series will continue through the summer:

Sign up below to stay up to date on the Ideas-to-Action series.


This work builds on peer-learning and project fund opportunities from the Trusted Elections Network. For additional questions and comments, email Andrew Rockway at andrew.rockway@pressinstitute.org.

Interested in contributing to the Local News Ideas-to-Action Fund, which will power the project funds for news organizations? Contact Kevin Loker, director of program operations and partnerships, at kevin.loker@pressinstitute.org.