Report Local: Local News Capacity Building Models and Community Trust

The distance between “the media” and communities has been a critical facilitator of public distrust of journalism. Recent Tow Center research has highlighted the voices of community members who have felt misrepresented by structures of parachute journalism that fail to capture the nuance and complexity of place—whether that place be in rural Kentucky, the South Side of Chicago, or Philadelphia. This, of course, is situated within the context of shrinking local journalism resources, where consolidation, changing distribution platforms, and market failure have led to areas that are, or are at risk of becoming, media deserts—and communities who perceive themselves as only receiving stigmatized coverage, if any. Responding to these realities, researchers have also recommended that funders and organizations supporting journalism turn their attention to local news outlets and, when possible, go beyond the usual suspects.

This project examines several foundation-supported models attempting to strengthen the capacity of local news to report on and in communities that have largely been under-resourced and/or under-represented in local, regional, or national media. This includes national projects that support reporters working in local newsrooms, as well as locally-driven projects that use a variety of strategies to encourage storytelling that is more inclusive and representative of diverse communities. For projects expected to be in Charleston (WV), Chicago (IL), Philadelphia (PA), Pikeville (KY), and South Bend (IN), this study examines local journalism needs and community engagement/trust over the course of the projects. Research methods will include: focus groups with panels of community members at project start and end, interviews with community organization representatives and participating journalists, observations at newsrooms, periodic monitoring of project content, and check-ins with project participants.

Project leads: Sam Ford, Andrea Wenzel

January 01, 2018