A Texas nonprofit that turned criticism into cash. A look at ProPublica's successful year-end fundraising playbook. How a hyper-local website that's been around since 2009 recently raised $1 million from the public.
These are just a handful of stories that Joseph Lichterman has explored in Solution Set (lenfestinstitute.org/ solutionset), his weekly newsletter for the Lenfest Institute, which owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, where I work. Despite a saturated market of media newsletters and coverage, Lichterman has developed a niche by going deep on a single innovation or interesting idea happening in journalism that newsrooms might be able to adapt and benefit from.
Lichterman began his career at Reuters in Detroit reporting on the bankruptcy of the auto industry, but honed his focus on the media while covering innovation at Nieman Journalism Lab. His work at the Lenfest Institute is essentially an extension of that, with a drilled-down focus on finding sustainable business models (plural) to support local journalism.
"I was hired with a relatively straightforward mandate: Build a product that applies solutions journalism to journalism itself," Lichterman said. "My goal is to essentially produce well-reported blueprints which can help journalists and news organizations to try new ideas."
Lichterman spoke to E&P about some of the success stories he's been able to cover, ideas he wishes more newsrooms would embrace and the importance for smaller outlets to find time for some experimentation. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Each week, Solution Set has a very specific format. Can you tell me about it?
Each issue is broken into six core sections: The Challenge, The Strategy, The Numbers, The Lessons, The Future, and Want to Know More? Readers have said they appreciate that this template presents the reporting in a clear narrative. I also start each issue with a TLDR (too long didn't read) that summarizes the reporting, because I wanted readers to easily be able to scan the issue to see what they're going to get out of it before committing their valuable time to reading it.
I conducted a survey earlier this year, and a couple of requests were follow-ups on previous case studies and more thematic coverage. Earlier this summer, we did a series of issues on newsroom-driven revenue projects, and in September, we did a whole series of issues on climate change coverage.
What are some of the innovative and successful ideas...