Outlier Media: Developing a journalism driven infobot for the underserved

I started the JSK Fellowship wanting to figure out how to best fill information gaps in low-­income communities. I needed to understand why news organizations consistently fail to fill those gaps, what models to learn from, and where reporters rather than community organizations can be most useful. Based on what I’ve learned, I’ve developed a news product called Outlier Media. It’s consumer-driven data journalism for low-­income news consumers. It is based on the following three principles:

  • User first: Reporting must be centered on the needs of the news consumer and not constrained by the objectives or style choices of a reporter or news organization. Long- form investigative journalism, for example, may win awards and it might be satisfying to write, but it does not fit the needs of time-­constrained families looking for valuable information.
  • Direct to consumer: The overwhelming majority of news organizations have ignored low-­income individuals as potential news consumers for too long. Any project hoping to have market penetration in low-­income communities needs to find a way to target these news consumers directly instead of trying to draw them into the audience of an existing news organization.
  • Information must have real value: Information only has real world value to low­-income news consumers when it can lead almost directly to a remedy. It’s not always enough, for example, to “know your rights,” if one needs to find and hire a lawyer to assert those rights.

Using these principles as guideposts, I’m reporting on issues with rental housing in a major U.S. market.