From Polarization to Public Sphere Phase I

This project examines what political polarization and urban-rural divisions look like in the daily lives of residents at the local level—and what role local media may play in creating spaces for dialogue across parties and demographics.The project is rooted in a case study of a predominantly Republican-leaning region of Kentucky. This includes the more “purple” college town of Bowling Green, home of the infamous “Bowling Green Massacre,” as well as the more rural area of Ohio County, which is more solidly “red.” Using a communication infrastructure theory framework, this project examine residents’ communication storytelling networks. Through a series of focus groups, “story diaries,” and interviews, it explores residents’ access to communication resources, interactions they do or do not have with “others” in their community, and their attitudes towards local and national media. This study also looks at the needs of local and rural journalists—and how they may contribute to a region that is more connected and engaged. Following the study—and a related workshop for local and regional media, community stakeholders, and actors working in engagement journalism, solutions journalism, and rural/local journalism—the project is designing possible projects that respond to local needs and seek to create opportunities for dialogue and engagement.

Project lead: Andrea Wenzel

Team member: Sam Ford

August 14, 2017