By Sarah Alvarez

When a terrible winter storm and widespread utility failures hit Texas last month we were happy to see local newsrooms in the state work to get people the information they needed to survive during the outages. Local news can be an essential service in this way every day, providing information that helps people meet their challenges and achieve their goals. Unfortunately for many local communities, this orientation in local news is the exception, not the rule.

At Outlier, we are and always have been built to provide essential information as local news. We believe for local news to have a future, it has to be built for people when they truly need information before it is built for people when they are just curious. We offer here our first white paper on how local news can be an essential service by working first to meet local information needs. 

We offer the experiences we have gathered over almost five years not to be prescriptive of limitations for what local news can be. Instead, we offer the lessons we have learned and the projects we learn from only as a place to build from when trying to create more value with local news and information services. 

If you have thoughts to share or initiatives you think we should know about, please get in touch with us at,, or @media_outlier

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Sarah (she/her) believes the best local reporting is a service, responds directly to community needs and reduces harm. Her favorite place in Detroit is her backyard on a summer evening.