Fueling community news networks in 2024

Last year was a busy one for us at the Journalism + Design lab, and we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the community-based programs we supported in 2023 and offer a snapshot of what’s ahead for us this year. 

Through our Community News Networks initiative, we’ve been exploring how design practices can help build pathways and power for more people – particularly those who have historically been excluded from, and harmed by, legacy media systems – to participate in the production and distribution of news in their community.

We’ve primarily been working with community colleges across the country and co-developing programs that center them as catalysts for local news. We believe that community colleges can play a unique and critical role in enabling more people to get involved in sharing reliable information: from offering training programs that democratize journalism education to acting as community news hubs.

Here are a few highlights from our work in 2023:

  • Supported four community colleges in New Jersey in launching free, noncredit certificates in community journalism. In partnership with the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, we’re working with four community colleges across the state to help launch their own noncredit certificate programs that equip community members with journalism skills. Each college is designing programs unique to their own communities and expertise. They’ll launch throughout the year, starting this month.
  • Developed and hosted a Community Journalism certificate in Cleveland. In partnership with Cuyahoga Community College, Signal Cleveland and Neighborhood Media Foundation, we co-led a free, noncredit program that equipped more than a dozen community members with journalism and design skills. 
  • Launched local reporting collaborations with students, artists and local journalists in Oakland. Through the Oakland Lowdown, a community studio for news and art that functions as an experimental lab for our programming, we partnered with Oakland North, a program of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, and nonprofit newsroom The Oaklandside on a reporting project exploring the state of downtown Oakland. 
  • Advised HumanitiesDC on a new community journalism training program. Our partners at HumanitiesDC launched a new program last Fall that trained a dozen people in journalism and paired them with mentors to produce original stories.

What we’re planning in 2024

Most of our time last year went into developing partnerships and co-designing new programs that will launch in 2024. Here’s a look at what we’ve got in the works: 

  • Co-hosting a new round of Community Journalism for Civic Power in Philadelphia. Deepening our partnership with the Community College of Philadelphia and Resolve Philly, we’ll co-facilitate the third installment of this free noncredit certificate program in March 2024. Here’s the base curriculum we used for our previous iterations of the program, which we’ll continue to expand this year with additional modules. 
  • Launching a community journalism fellowship in Fresno. In partnership with Fresno City College and Fresnoland, we’ll train community members to produce local stories and information that can help their neighborhoods thrive. 
  • Researching the news ecosystem of Cumberland County, NC, with Fayetteville Technical Community College. This spring, we’ll collaborate with faculty and students at FTCC to produce a report on local information needs and assets.
  • Launching a new program to help community members design their own local news products. We’ll pilot a fellowship from our studio in Oakland that will equip participants with design skills and support them in prototyping ideas that support the flow of reliable news in their communities. 
  • Developing a new fellowship for community college faculty to imagine how their schools could be hubs for local news. We’ll research and design opportunities for faculty at community colleges across the country to help us identify new ways that colleges can fuel participation in local news ecosystems. 
  • Collaborating with artists on creative ways to circulate news. At the Oakland Lowdown, we’re working with local artists to develop and pilot community-based art campaigns that seek to connect people with news and information, including through a new screen-printing shop that we’ll host from our studio. 
  • We’re also in conversation with a variety of other partners about collaborations this year, including: Oklahoma State University, HumanitiesDC, Moreno Valley College, Listening Post Collective, and more. 

Let’s build together

This year, we plan to offer more connection points and resources for anyone working to fuel greater participation in local news. We’ll soon restart our monthly virtual potlucks, create and share curricular resources, and offer updates and insights through this newsletter. 

We’d love to hear what you’re learning in your own work and what you might find useful. If you’re interested in collaborating, brainstorming or just sharing what you’re up to, please take a minute to let us know here