One of the most exciting (and scary) things about working in journalism right now is that the industry is in flux. Since we started Solution Set in 2018, our goal has been to help you make sense of that constant change.

And today, we’re starting a new series to help you navigate the evolving news ecosystem. In addition to our regular series of in-depth, solutions-focused reporting on news organizations, we’ll share highlights from new reports, excerpts from worthwhile case studies, and links to other resources.

This is new, and we’re going to continue to tweak it as we evolve, but we’d love your feedback. Please just reply to this email with any questions, thoughts, concerns, or ideas for what we should cover next.

Here’s the TLDR:


• Borderless Magazine, a Chicago-based nonprofit, recently published a new report with strategies and tips for how local newsrooms can better serve immigrant communities. My colleague Maddie Vassallo shares some highlights.

• The Journal News, which covers New York’s Lower Hudson Valley, reimagined its coverage of Yonkers, N.Y. Learn more from Better News about how it rebuilt trust and grew digital subscriptions.

• Want to learn how to launch and maintain an email newsletter? Sign up for “Newsletter Strategies for Journalists” a new FREE online course I’m co-teaching through the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

• Meet The Lenfest Institute’s news hounds who were busy this week reporting on the massive snow storm on the East Coast. Scroll down to check out their coverage from our Instagram.

How newsrooms can better serve immigrant communities

By Maddie Vassallo

Local news is in crisis, but the challenges facing newsrooms serving immigrant communities are even greater. 

“Our information ecosystem is in distress with news outlets suffering decades of financial decimation; journalists are under attack, both physically and digitally, for trying to deliver critical stories to readers; and disinformation floods communities as people try to reckon with the challenges of coming together on issues of the day,” says a new report from Borderless Magazine, a Chicago-based multilingual nonprofit newsroom covering immigration since 2017.

The magazine surveyed nearly 50 of its readers to better understand how they felt immigration issues were covered in local media and outline strategies for now local newsrooms — in Chicagoland and nationwide — can ensure they are meeting the needs of their communities. 

“The magazine’s research found that overall Chicagoans are disappointed in both the quality and quantity of local immigration news. When Borderless asked them to rate Chicago media’s coverage of immigration on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being excellent and 1 being terrible, 68 percent of respondents rated quality of the coverage with a 6 or below,” the survey found.

In order for local news organizations to properly meet the needs of all their readers, reporters must consider what information immigrant communities require, and how they will most effectively be able to receive this information. 

You can read the full report here, and check out my full summary here. But here are the 10 keys it outlines:

  1. Produce more local coverage of immigration
  2. Publish stories in languages other than English
  3. Hire immigrants and first-generation Americans to report
    on immigrant communities
  4. Uplift more diverse voices
  5. Invest more time in explaining immigration policy
  6. Answer audience members’ questions about immigration
  7. Focus on the experiences of individual immigrants
  8. Investigate the complex systems that impact immigrants
  9. Develop relationships, not fixers
  10. Respect the humanity and vulnerability of sources

How The Journal News reinvented its coverage of Yonkers, N.Y., rebuilt trust and grew subscriptions

In Better News, The Journal News’ Tiffany Cusaac-Smith, Jeanne Muchnick, and Mary Dolan share how they refocused their community coverage to build trust and drive revenue.

We are transitioning to a subscriber-based revenue model, and we’ve evolved our newsroom culture to one that reports more holistically about the people and communities in the region we serve — with a particular sensitivity to people and communities most affected by our country’s legacy of discrimination.

We wanted to reinvent our coverage of Yonkers, N.Y., moving away from a focus on crime and corruption that provoked distrust and tension, toward more people-focused reporting in neighborhoods rich and poor that could build trust and draw loyal readers and new subscribers.

We now focus hard on where we can grow our readership. In the lower Hudson Valley, that target is people who live in diverse, multicultural communities growing in population. We can’t get there without listening to their needs, gaining their trust and reflecting the fullness of their lives.

A secondary, smaller target are millennials priced out of New York City — or driven out by the pandemic — and moving to Yonkers, a city grappling like many with how to balance growth and development against the needs of longtime residents.

Our goal was to create and test a template of strategies in Yonkers that could serve these audiences that we could also apply to similar communities.

Newsletter Strategies for Journalists: How to Create, Grow & Monetize Newsletters

You can say that newsletters are having a moment. And no matter if you’re working in a newsroom or are an independent journalist, email is an important channel for reaching audiences and building loyalty.

That’s why I’m collaborating with Carrie Porter and Emily Roseman to teach the new course “Newsletter Strategies for Journalists: How to Create, Grow & Monetize Newsletters” through the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

During this four-week massive open online course, which will be held from February 22 to March 21, 2021, students will learn the fundamental skills required to launch and maintain a newsletter through a standard product life cycle and how a newsletter can fit into their work product and serve their audience.

Best of all: The course is free.

Learn more and register here.

Getting the scoop on the snow storm

You have heard the news: We got a bit of snow on the East Coast this week. Here at The Lenfest Institute, we dedicated full-team coverage to the news. See how our intrepid team of news hounds dug into the big story on our Instagram.

Thanks again for reading Solution Set. Please reach out to me at [email protected] with any questions or feedback, and we’ll see you in a couple weeks!

Lilia Antazo, a Filipina, has worked as a caregiver for almost 20 years. She’s in front of her Norwood Park home on May 27, 2020 in Chicago, Ill. At one point in time she opened up her home to the person she took care of and let her stay with her because she could no longer afford housing. Photo by Pat Nabong for Borderless Magazine.

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