Guest commentary: Who do you trust? College students researching local news want to hear from you
A year into a global pandemic and after a chaotic presidential election, we’re all seeking trustworthy sources of information. As misinformation swirls online, more of the burden shifts to us as readers, listeners and viewers to figure out for ourselves what to believe.
So where, exactly, do you go to find news and information that you trust — and more specifically, trustworthy local news about your community? We hope it’s this news source in your hand or on your screen. But we also know that’s not the only place. We want to hear from you.
Throughout April, a group of college students will be speaking with local people in your area for a project that aims to help Coloradans make sense of our state’s fragmented local news landscape. You can read more about the project here: http://bit.ly/CC-Local-News-Project
Their work will serve as the basis for deeper conversations about the future of trustworthy local news that connects your community — who produces it, where to find it and how to sustain it.
Why is this important? A recent Colorado Media Project analysis found that dozens of our state’s sources of original, local news may be nearing a transition of ownership, and dozens more have already closed or been forced to significantly cut back services, as tech platforms like Facebook and Google gobble up advertising revenue.
As news deserts spread and the number of professional local reporters dwindles, Colorado residents might not connect the rise of online misinformation and polarization with the change in the health of our news diets and habits — but we aim to change that.
Our project brings together students and researchers from Colorado College and the University of Denver with a team from the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado News Collaborative, Colorado Media Project, Free Press and Hearken to engage all Coloradans in envisioning a path forward that better serves our communities.
Right now our team also is gathering information to create an interactive map that will be publicly accessible on COLab’s website (https://colabnews.co). The map aims to identify existing local news sources and other trusted information sources — such as newsletters, blogs or social pages from libraries, universities or community groups — in all of Colorado’s 64 counties.
To do this, we need to hear from community members like you, across Colorado, about where you find local news and information that you trust. You can help us by taking five minutes to fill out this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CO-Local-News-Map
Ultimately, our work aims to innovate and sustain local news that connects our communities, increases understanding among our neighbors and helps all of us solve problems.
“These times require new approaches to the relationships between communities and their local news sources,” says Laura Frank, director of the Colorado News Collaborative, a nonprofit coalition of journalists from more than 100 newsrooms statewide (including The Aspen Times).
“As the business model for local news in Colorado continues to evolve, this project will help identify new ideas and allies for ensuring that people in all corners of our state have the trustworthy news and information they need to engage in our democracy,” said Melissa Davis, director of the Colorado Media Project.
“This collaboration between journalism innovators and students is an important step towards understanding all the structures, organizations and people that play a critical role in providing Coloradans with the information they need,” said Diamond Hardiman of News Voices: Colorado, who added the organization is “excited to expand upon our community-centered approaches to local news and journalism with the insight this project will provide.”
If you would like to talk with a student, engage with this project or have any questions about it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corey Hutchins is an instructor at Colorado College’s Journalism Institute and the Colorado-based contributor for Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project. He also writes case studies for the Colorado Media Project, an “Inside the News” column for COLab and its partners, and a weekly email newsletter for Colorado journalists and media-watchers.
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