The Media Deserts Project, part of the Media Deserts/News Oasis Project

1. What do you propose to do?

We’re using GIS tools to create a “climate” map that tracks changes in the reach and depth of community news.

2. Is anyone doing something like this now and how is your project different?

Papercuts shows pinpoints of newspapers that have closed. We are creating a “media desert” map with reach data for existing media that shows where people lack access to news.

3. Describe the network with which you intend to build or work.

We’re using open geographic information systems software. We will overlay existing daily and weekly newspaper circulation data, demographic and community data through ESRI and a network analysis of hyperlocal online news providers. We also will use Ushahidi software to build a layer of crowdsourced ethnographic data.

4. Why will it work?

More than 120 newspapers have ceased operation in the United States since 2008. The Pew Center, New America Foundation and the FCC report disturbing effects of newspaper changes, broadband access and other media access issues. Across every state of the nation, community residents are experiencing growing voids in local news coverage. Just as the USDA food desert map has galvanized community conversation and action around remedies, we believe visualization of community media systems will help illuminate where news is lacking. Our map will help monitor the system over time and focus attention and resources where they are most needed.

5. Who is working on it?

Dr. Michelle Ferrier is an associate professor in journalism and online community development at Elon University who is the principal investigator for the project which is being developed in conjunction with Journalism That Matters, an international collaboration of journalists, educators, hyperlocal operators, broadcasters and news producers. Ferrier is also part of a larger collaboration of university researchers examining the changing media system. She is working with Dr. Ryan Kirk, an assistant professor in environmental sciences at Elon University who is an expert in GIS systems. Journalism That Matters is providing intervention-related consulting to communities identified as media deserts.

6. What part of the project have you already built?

We are currently prototyping a state version of the mapping system using daily and community newspapers. The prototype will allow us to test our metrics for measuring and defining “media deserts.” We have also created partnerships with several national media policy organizations that are interested in seeing such a map become reality. We are currently installing the Ushahidi software and creating a system for capturing stories of media deserts. Through Journalism That Matters, we are testing interventions in one topical media desert in Seattle. We have identified two other communities in which to host conversations around interventions.

7. How would you sustain the project after the funding expires?

We are building collaborative research partnerships with other higher education institutions and policy foundations. We feel these organizations will support the mapping system and research website once the demonstration project is completed. In addition, we plan to provide consulting services, ethnographic research and specialized reporting to communities with media deserts.

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The Media Deserts Project, part of the Media Deserts/News Oasis Project

Reflections on Slow News Movement at JTM-PNW

After several days at the Journalism that Matters -Pacific Northwest gathering, we’ve been asked to reflect on what ah-ha moments, actions and emotions we’ve developed during our time. One of the most intriguing ideas to come out of the JTM session I hosted on Locally Grown News was the idea of slow news.

The first ah-ha moment for me came when I looked at what was happening nationally and the movement toward producing fewer papers — going from a daily metro newspaper to perhaps three or four times a week publication. While this has reduced expenditures and is often accompanied by layoffs, I began to think that the change signaled a difference in how news was produced. Even with fewer employees, do the news staffs feel that they can produce more thoughtful, context-filled, richly sourced stories with the additional time they now have?

This thought carried into the Locally Grown News session where we examined using the locavore movement — eating locally — as an opening for conversations and sharing of news in a community. The idea is to use the analogy of the farmer’s market, rather than the town square, as the metaphor for doing news differently in a hyperlocal space.

Our group found the food metaphor a rich way to explore not only how hyperlocals might use this content niche as a focal point, but began to examine the food cycle itself and how it maps to the roles, practices, behaviors, rituals that define a different way of doing journalism. What rich, fertile ground (oh, the puns!) that helped to grow our vision of a new kind of news process.

Slow news is the deliberate, thoughtful, context-filled, nurturing journalistic enterprise. It is news as food, news and information that feeds a community. My initial thoughts generated multiple questions that we could ask ourselves as journalists and media producers:

1. Who is fed by this information? Who is starved?

2. How does this information nurture the community?

3. Where did the seeds of this idea come from?

4. Who contributed to the preparation of this story?

5. Where else/how else/in what other forms might this story be produced?

Our collective passion for what we do as journalists and foodies led us to produce a diagram that maps our roles as media in the food cycle.

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Reflections on Slow News Movement at JTM-PNW