Allison Levine is leading the charge to catalyze funding and innovative collaborations for local journalism with Delaware’s Local Journalism Initiative. We interviewed Allison to hear more about her work and ask for her insights and advice to emerging CNF communities.
Question: How does your CNF serve the Delaware local news ecosystem?
Allison: The Local Journalism Initiative is a nonprofit organization that is a backbone organization for lots of different initiatives working to strengthen the local news and information ecosystem in Delaware. We are partnering with the Delaware Community Foundation to run an internship program that is deepening the pipeline of reporters, local news reporters, from underserved communities.
We conducted a statewide Ecosystem Assessment to kind of get our arms around what the people of Delaware want and need from the local news and information ecosystem. We convened the Delaware Journalism Collaborative, which is a cohort of about fifteen local newsrooms and five local community partners who are working together to provide high-quality reporting and lead community engagement work around the issue of polarization. It is a solutions journalism collaborative, which means that the newsrooms work together to identify the community challenge and then look at ways that the community can work together to solve that challenge to find solutions.
We are also working on launching a new, collaborative, nonprofit news entity for Delaware that will be called Spotlight Delaware. It’s inspired by some of our partners around the country, including spotlight PA and the VTDigger. We’re going to bring a model similar to those here to Delaware.
Question: What advice do you have for emerging CNFs?
Allison: My big advice is if you can find a way to start a CNF without starting a new 501c3, that would be a great approach. Look for a partner, like a community foundation, so that you don’t have to actually start a whole new organization. If that doesn’t work, just start, even if you have to start really, really small. When I first started thinking about this work, I had a really huge vision, and I was a little intimidated by my own vision of what needed to happen. This slowed me down because I was afraid I couldn’t achieve– I couldn’t build the mountain. I was afraid to start if I didn’t think I could succeed in building the mountain. But if you start by building a couple of piles of sand, and then suddenly they start to grow, you start building your vision.
Question: What have you learned about your community from this process?
Allison: One of my favorite parts of this work is learning about Delaware because we have really worked hard to make this community-centered journalism. This means listening to the community, and talking to lots and lots of different people throughout the community, throughout the state in different parts of the state, and in different demographic communities within the state. For example, I learned so much about the Haitian population in Delaware that I knew so little about.
I’ve also been really inspired by how much laypeople understand and care about local news and information. At the beginning of our listening tour, I thought only people connected to local news had a passion for it, but what I found was that people in Delaware were really creative and thoughtful about local news. They observed that the existing news infrastructure isn’t serving the community’s needs anymore and that the old model doesn’t work for communities. Delaware residents are really thinking about what might work and how a nonprofit newsroom could address news deserts if all the newsrooms work together. This is super exciting to me because those are the things that we want to work toward.
Question: If you had to pick a theme song for your CNF, what would it be?
Allison: “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone
“And this old world is a new world
And a bold world for me…
It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new life for me… and I’m feeling good.”