Who 'counts' in local journalism?
Providing information and building power for communities outside the traditional “Rich, White, and Blue” audience.
Yesterday, the NC Local News Workshop and NC Open Government Coalition hosted the NC News and Information Summit at Elon University. Across sessions on covering elections, understanding the digital divide, and researching Hispanic and Latino communities’ news needs, conversations kept coming back around to power and equity, including:
Who gets paid to make the news?
In Jessica Mahone’s recap of recent North Carolina journalism research, she highlighted that in a statewide newsroom diversity audit, 43% of journalists in North Carolina earn salaries below the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center’s living income standard for the state ($50,000 for a household of two). Those low salaries limit who can work in news, as Eileen Rodríguez noted in a lightning talk about her experiences as a Report for America fellow at WFDD.
Who sets the agenda?
Jordan Wilkie and Laura Lee led a workshop to organize a statewide Citizens Agenda for North Carolina for the 2024 election cycle. The format is designed to root election coverage in an understanding of communities’ top priorities and shift agenda-setting power from candidates to voters—though in a political moment when even local politics are a site for antidemocratic pushback, there are serious challenges to grassroots journalism.
Whose information needs get centered?
Carolina Public Press presented research into the digital divide and its effects on news access, which show a significant gap between Latino communities and other racial and ethnic groups in terms of both internet and news availability. In another session, Brenda Murphree previewed an upcoming report from the NC Local News Workshop on Latino and Hispanic communities’ news needs in Western North Carolina. She found:
Trust is an obstacle to engagement with journalists
A notable preference for radio formats
The presence of Mam and K’iché language communities and a need for language access beyond Spanish
A network of informal community orgs and cooperatives providing information not traditionally recognized as journalism
In a panel discussion that followed, Paola Jaramillo of Enlace Latino NC and Alvaro Gurdiàn of La Noticia offered illustrations of how those findings play out in their own work, from Enlace’s efforts to reach farm laborers through the nonprofit groups who know where they’re living to La Noticia’s ability to hold interviews with grieving families the Charlotte Observer can’t reach after a construction accident. When a radio journalist in the room asked, “how can we help?” Paola’s response was immediate—they could air the podcast Enlace Latino NC produces to reach a broader audience.
What role can journalism play in supporting a Third Reconstruction?
The day ended with a keynote conversation between Meredith Clark and Tracie Powell. Dr. Clark pointed to The Poor People’s Campaign agenda for a Third Reconstruction, specifically its 14th point—the need for 140 million poor and low-income people to realize their political power—to reimagine how journalism should contribute to an equitable democracy.
In their research, Clark and Powell asked “How does the intervention of philanthropic funding impacts the health and sustainability of BIPOC-founded news organizations? And how have we misunderstood and fundamentally mischaracterized the landscape of local news?”
Clark described their finding that “our common understanding of local news often erases, or worse, instrumentalizes is what's commonly described as ‘ethnic media.’ It makes outlets that serve groups like Asian elders, day laborers and poor people impacted by environmental racism into convenient tools to burnish the reputations of funders and other new stakeholders, rather than providing those outlets with the critical support they need in order to build infrastructure and develop sustainably.” The speakers called for journalists to join as active participants, rather than observers, of the work of building a media that’s inclusive of outlets like Enlace Latino NC, that understands WhatApp groups and personal information networks as news sources within their fold.
Publications and appearances
If you missed our panel discussion on Digital Cultures & Governance in February, it’s now available on YouTube:
“Conspiracy theories don't just operate by one person going into YouTube and getting down a rabbit hole of bad information. They get connected to other like-minded individuals, and through those connections, they start to create trusted systems for making sense of conspiracies, to the point where they actually feel real. Yes, the internet complicates this, in terms of reach and scope, how we combat it, but the notion that communities believe bad information or inaccurate information—that's been around for as long as time.” Francesca Tripodi talked with UNC’s Gillings School of Public Health about how conspiracy theories are public health crises.
“Even though we don’t know all the harms and all the biases that are embedded in the systems, even the smallest part of the harms we are seeing is very concerning.” As ChatGPT continues to release new versions, UNC’s Media Hub notes concerns raised by Heesoo Jang, Alice Marwick, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and others on campus.
March 19, 6:30pm: Tressie McMillan Cottom will moderate part 2 of a virtual series on “Women + Justice” for the Brooklyn Public Library. Registration.
March 21, 7pm: Melissa Harris-Perry will give the Daniels Lecture at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, followed by a panel discussion with students including our affiliate Carolyn Schmitt. Details and registration.
March 21, 7:30pm: Tressie McMillan Cottom will offer a talk on “The Crisis of Faith in Higher Education” at Bridgewater College. Location and livestream details.
March 23, 7pm: Tressie McMillan Cottom will give the Robert Smalls Lecture on “Troubling the Public During Troubling Times” at the University of South Carolina.
March 29, 2pm: The UNC Center for Media Law & Policy presents a conversation on “Public Records & Public Universities” featuring Ryan Thornburg and Erin Siegel McIntyre, moderated by Amanda Reid. Register for the virtual event.
March 29, 6pm: Tressie McMillan Cottom will give a talk at the UMass-Amherst College of Education (in person only). Optional RSVP.
March 30, 4pm: Tressie McMillan Cottom will give the Kim and Judy Davis Lecture at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. Register for in person or online attendance.
March 31, 11am: The CITAP spring speaker series presents Hakeem Jefferson, “From Margin to Center”: Reorienting our Approach to the Study of Race and Inequality in the Social Sciences. Details and registration.
April 10, 9am: CITAP affiliate Bridget Barrett will give a public dissertation defense of her work on political merchandizing by campaigns and unofficial sellers. Details and registration (both in-person and virtual) to follow.
April 20, 3pm: CITAP presents a talk from affiliate Melanie Feinberg about her book Everyday Adventures with Unruly Data.
April 21: The School of Information and Library Science will host its annual Symposium on Information for Social Good, with keynote from Tonia Sutherland. Full agenda and registration to follow.
April 23: Tressie McMillan Cottom will give a keynote at the Faculty Women of Color conference. Program and registration.
May 2-3: Join us at “Social Justice and Technological Futures,” hosted by the University of Tübingen. Registration is free.
May 30: Release date for Alice Marwick’s The Private Is Political: Networked Privacy and Social Media.
Rest of Web
Last week, I asked Twitter about the origins of the badly-rewritten content that fills our media tracking tools. Affiliate Bridget Barrett flags that it’s “Probably programmatic ad fraud!” The Internet scam economy strikes again.