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Taking My Talents to NewStart...

Welcome to a new edition of the NewStart Alliance!

This week I'd like to introduce you to another member of our second cohort of fellows. You've already met Maggie and Larry. Today you're going to hear from Alicia Ramirez, who is a web producer at CBS Los Angeles.

Alicia is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago with degrees in journalism and political science. Before joining CBS Los Angeles she was a designer and editor at the Chicago Tribune. She got her start at a small weekly publication in Texas. And as you'll hear from Alicia, the time spent working in Castroville left a lasting impression.

Alicia, take it away...
Why am I joining NewStart?

Alicia RamirezThe simple answer is that I believe there’s a better way to do local news that treats journalists and communities with the respect and dignity they deserve while still being financially viable.

The more convoluted answer starts with a woman named Natalie Spencer, who took a chance on a 22-year-old journalist fresh out of college and hired her as a reporter for Cornerstone Publications — an independently owned outlet that published two weekly papers. 

The thing about Natalie is that she believed deeply in the power of good journalism to both hold accountable those in positions of power and build better, more informed communities.

But when she died in a car crash last April, the papers she devoted her life to also ceased to exist, and the communities they covered are all a little worse off.

The death of my mentor at the start of one of the most trying years I have faced as a journalist really made me take stock of my life and career, as well as how my skills and interests can be best used to further the field of journalism. Because not only am I the living legacy of Natalie’s work (along with the rest of my Team Cornerstone fam), I am the product of every single newsroom I have ever worked or interned in.

And my goal, I have found, is to find a way to make local news financially viable while paying journalists living wages and offering good benefits, hiring folks with diverse backgrounds and covering communities in a way that is respectful and comprehensive.

But to do this, I first have to educate myself more deeply about the myriad issues facing local news outlets and potential solutions, which is where NewStart comes in. Because while I have extensive experience as a reporter, photographer, editor, designer and union leader, I have to admit I know very little about the business side of news.

So, like I said at the beginning, I decided to join NewStart to find a more sustainable path for local news — and those who produce it — to not only survive, but thrive going forward.
Well said, Alicia. Thank you for sharing.

All of us associated with the NewStart program can't wait to work with Alicia and the rest of our second cohort. 

If you'd like to join Alicia in our second year of the program and earn a master's degree in Media Solutions and Innovation from WVU's Reed College of Media, there's still time to apply. Our next cohort will start learning virtually at the end of June, so if you want in, check out the program details here, and then follow the instructions here to apply.

Survey Says!

I've been doing this newsletter thing for a little while now (82 times, to be exact). And it's about time I figured out what you like and don't like about it.

To try and get a sense of what's working, what's not and what you'd like to see more of, I put together this fancy little survey. I also threw a few questions in there about the journalism industry in general because, well, I'm nebby.

It would mean a lot to me if you would take a few moments and answer the questions. It shouldn't take too much time to complete. So go ahead and fill it out:
Survey Time. Let's Go!
Take your time. I'l wait...
All done?  Excellent!  Thanks!

I'll be sure to share the results in an upcoming newsletter.

Quick Hits

Here is a lot of informative news from around the world of local journalism. Enjoy! 

NewStart In The News: Click the link to learn a little bit more about NewStart's own, Victor Hernandez. Added bonus: An adorable picture of Benson the bulldog.

Learn: "The seven members, one for each Oakland district, will be reading our stories and giving us feedback to ensure we stay true to our founding values." Another fine example of audience engagement, this time in South Jersey. "On a smaller scale, some local weekly newspapers have been shutting down because they couldn't find buyers. One of the latest examples is the Gallatin Publishing Co. of Gallatin, Mo., which announced May 5 that it would shut down Friday, May 28, unless it could find a buyer for the weekly Gallatin North Missourian and the monthly Lake Viking News." “An often-unexplored consequence of the disappearance of local news is the fact that local politics will become increasingly determined by national matters,” said Charles Angelucci, one of the study's coauthors. "Funding and training are plentiful and displaced journalists are eager to recommit to a community news mission, but the picture is not all sunny." "Our view, though, is that these challenges would be manageable if it weren’t for corporate greed. Starting in the 1970s, publicly traded chains began taking over newspapers, extracting massive profits and cutting back on coverage, leaving the business unprepared for the deluge that was to come. More recently, hedge funds have moved in, bleeding newspapers of their last remaining revenues rather than investing in the future. Compounding all this is that, in many cases, corporate owners take on massive amounts of debt to build their chains and then extract revenues from their newspapers to pay it down." "Given the complexity of issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across media, it makes sense to create an honest and simpler way to highlight problematic practices within newsrooms. Journalists, newsroom leaders, and researchers will be able to evaluate the exact factors that need to be addressed. The rubric will also provide some idea as to what standards need to be met to improve their workplaces and the industry at-large." "If you run a local news organization that’s trying to figure out reader or corporate funding, this post can help you get started." "There is value in focusing on solutions journalism while pursuing revenue growth, and particularly when fundraising. Institutional and individual funders, as well as business sponsors, are eager to support this reporting approach." "As part of this test we will pay participating publishers for the ability to link to additional news stories not already posted on Facebook - helping us experiment with ways to enhance the experience for people on the platform who are looking for trusted Canadian news about important topics. For example, this might include adding additional links to local and national news to hubs like the COVID-19 Information Centre, Climate Science Information Centre, or other information hubs when they are available. Or it could be for an entirely new surface or use case over time." "In partnership with Column, CNPA members will have access to public notice software that they can deploy to streamline internal operations and deliver a powerful new customer experience for local governments, legal services, and businesses that are required to place notices." "Soon, we will pass our first threshold of one thousand members, even though we only started charging for complete access three months ago. Three-quarters of our members have opted for annual memberships, investing in us as we invest in you."

This An' 'At: "Postmedia Network Inc. will be launching its own parcel service starting this summer, leveraging its newspaper delivery network to meet the growing consumer demand for at-home package delivery." "We are aware that government assistance to the news media can be inappropriate or even harmful if done the wrong way.  But the crisis in local news has become so severe we believe urgent action is necessary -- and can, indeed, be done in a content-neutral, nonpartisan way, minimizing  the risk of government favoritism or interference." "The trick was, he paid them."


That's all for this week. 

You can follow NewStart on Twitter @wvunewstart (Drive for 500!), and you can @ me @jimiovino. You can follow us on the Facebooks here.

Interested in supporting our students in Year 2 and beyond? I'd be happy to talk! Wouldn't it be great to offer more fellowships and scholarships? You can help!

As always, you can find NewStart online at

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Thanks again, stay safe, and we'll talk soon.
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