What Delawareans want from local news: Survey results are in

What Delawareans want from local news: Survey results are in
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An effort to strengthen local news in Delaware kicked off with a study that included feedback from local residents about what they want and need from local news coverage.

The nonprofit Local Journalism Initiative of Delaware announced the results of that study on Tuesday in a press release. It found that Delawareans want and need better access to local news and information pretty much everywhere – from southern New Castle to all points south, and in Black communities regardless of location.

“Delawareans resoundingly told us that they want and need better access to trustworthy local news and information so they can thrive, participate fully in our democracy, and build strong, connected communities,” LJI President and Founder Allison Taylor Levine said. “Lack of local news and information affects everyone. How do you enroll a child in school, know when to vote, or learn why some people wear masks while others go without?”

LJI completed the study in response to the local news crisis in Delaware and nationwide. In 2020 alone, more than 60 local newsrooms around the country shut down and 37,000 newsroom employees were laid off, furloughed, or had their pay cut.  

In recent years, Delaware’s local news outlets – print, broadcast, and digital – have been forced to gut their editorial staffs in size and experience; cut the quantity, quality, and timeliness of their coverage; and, in some cases, shut down completely. This situation only worsened during the pandemic as newsrooms’ revenue dropped even further while the public’s demand for trustworthy local news and information skyrocketed.

The study included more than 250 Delaware residents representing various geographic, socioeconomic, political, ethnic, and gender diversities, the release said. Participants engaged in the study via focus groups, community conversations, and text-message surveys over a six-month period. The study also included analyses of several public data sources.

Key findings include:

  • Delawareans value local news and information, which they want and need more.
  • Delawareans lack reliable, formal sources of local news and information. Most rely on word of mouth or crowdsourced social media (like Facebook groups, NextDoor or Twitter).
  • There are information deserts in the state – significant geographic areas that receive little, if any, media coverage.
  • Delawareans say local news does not fairly represent historically underrepresented communities, particularly Black communities.
  • Delawareans need better access to information about resources available to help them thrive and engage in our communities, including access to Delaware government information
  • Delawareans feel disconnected and disengaged from local news reporters and editors.
  • Delawareans say local news is overly negative and disempowering. They want information that empowers them to advance solutions in their communities.

So how to address those needs?

Key recommendations include:

  • Build reporting capacity.  
  • Increase access to public records and government information.
  • Increase access to accurate voter information.
  • Increase the public’s ability to influence public policy decisions.
  • Increase community access to information about government and charitable resources.
  • Increase diversity within Delaware's newsrooms.
  • Increase communities’ connection to newsrooms.

To begin to address these recommendations, LJI is advancing two key initiatives – the Delaware Journalism Collaborative and an internship program in partnership with the Delaware Community Foundation and Maryland Delaware DC Press Association. LJI also will use the report to evaluate additional projects and build its strategic plan for the next several years.

“We cannot do this alone,” Levine said. “We hope this report will help us build partnerships and support the progress of other Delaware organizations working on these issues. We need philanthropists, government officials, nonprofit leaders, individuals and community groups of all kinds to improve our local news and information ecosystem.”

Learn more about LJI and read the full report here.

What's your opinion about the state of local news? Let us know at mail@delawareindependent.com.

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