The Ohio Local News Initiative & Cleveland Documenters

Last week we said we had a BIG announcement to make about Cleveland Documenters.

You may remember the conversation we’ve been having over the last 6 months about partnering with the Ohio Local News Initiative (OLNI) which intends to create a new, nonprofit newsroom here in Cleveland. Back in December, many of you attended the in-person “meet and greet” we held with OLNI. And, we’ve discussed the potential for this new newsroom at Cleveland Documenters Community of Practice.

Well, here’s the big news: Cleveland Documenters will become a program of this new, OLNI nonprofit newsroom! 

The idea is to build the newsroom around the Cleveland Documenters community and the work we do. A team of reporters, editors, producers, and researchers will rely on your assignments (and the questions you raise) to guide their reporting. And of course, we’ll continue and expand on creating explainers and guides to help make sense of local government. Your work and curiosity as Documenters is a key part of what will power this new newsroom.

Together we’ll equip Cleveland residents to better understand local government, better hold local government accountable, and to make meaningful changes in our city and neighborhoods. We also hope this newsroom will be a model for local, community based, participatory journalism for other newsrooms and other cities.

There is much about this new newsroom that needs to be worked out (for example, a name!). Only one newsroom staffing decision has been made so far: Cleveland Documenters team member and Neighborhood Connections Associate Program Director Lila Mills will be the Editor-in-Chief of this new nonprofit newsroom (yay!).

And, please know this: we do not take this move lightly. Our goals, our mission, and our practices remain the same. After nearly two years of collaborating with all of you to build this community — two years of listening and learning with you — we believe this newsroom is an opportunity to supercharge the work we have all been doing.

We see a number of benefits to joining this new newsroom, but here are two in particular:

  • Increased funding means potentially more assignments for Documenters and more meetings covered for the public.
  • The greater capacity of this newsroom will increase our ability to share the work Documenters do more widely, to better reach communities, and to explore and report on the issues Documenters raise.

To help answer any questions about this change, we’ve put together this FAQ, which we’ll keep updated as new questions come in.

We’ll have some time to talk about this together at the next Cleveland Documenters Community of Practice on Thursday, April 28th from 6-7:30pm via Zoom. Register to get the Zoom link here.

In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to us with any questions, concerns, or thoughts you have at