Dr. Andrea Wenzel at Temple University and I have been exploring, as Knight News Innovation Fellows at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, how political polarization and urban-rural divisions are impacting the lives of residents on a local level and processes for building/fortifying stronger local civic communication networks.
- In our first phase, that work focused on understanding how these issues have impacted the lives of people within Kentucky, and potential interventions–in partnership with journalism outlets in “The Bluegrass State”–to address such tensions. More at the Tow Center. See our initial report at Columbia Journalism Review. And here is a Financial Times feature on the research and trust in journalism in this region.
- Our second phase was a workshop with local participants in the research, news outlets, and community groups in Kentucky coming out of the research. Here is a recap of that workshop and a CJR piece on the tradition of society columns in rural Kentucky journalism, inspired by discussion from that event.
- Our third phase includes pilot projects with local newsroom partners in Kentucky.
- In February 2018, we partnered with The American Assembly at Columbia University, The Bowling Green Daily News, and civic tech company Pol.is to create the “Bowling Green Civic Assembly,” a three-part initiative focused on bringing the community together to discuss what would make the area a better place to “live, work, and spend time.” This work included a Virtual Town Hall (see here and here), an in-person Town Hall (see here, here, and here), and a community workshop to discuss results and envision next steps. See Jessica McKenzie’s thoughts on the process at Civicist, and find more on the process here, and in the corresponding Bowling Green Civic Assembly Report. Also, Joe Karaganis and I highlighted a few of the things we learned in a piece for Slate.
- Our “Rural Journalism Innovation Lab” initiative with The Ohio County Monitor in Ohio County, Kentucky, has focused on whether various types of experiments drive deeper engagement and support of local journalism in a rural place and connecting with/reimagining local community traditions like liars tables and society columns from community contributors. This work was extended in collaboration with the University of Oregon Agora Journalism Center’s Finding Common Ground initiative. (More at Journalism.co.uk and in the report Building Engagement.) We’re particularly honored that this work received the inaugural Research Prize for Professional Relevance from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2018. More about the AEJMC honor at Poynter.
- In related work, Andrea Wenzel and I partnered with Steve Bynum and Efrat Nechushtai to look at place-based questions of trust in journalism about local communities focused in Pike County, Kentucky, and the Austin community in Chicago, where Report for America has run local initiatives. See our May 2019 report, “Can Report for America Build Trust in Local News? A View from Two Communities,” as well as coverage in Harvard’s Nieman Lab.
See more on this work in my 2018 University of Kentucky talk, “Co-Creating the Future of Work in Kentucky: The Power of Narrative for Imagining Sustainable Solutions.” Also, several of these projects were included in Cole Goins’ September 2018 guide for the American Press Institute on “How a Culture of Listening Strengthens Reporting and Relationships” and in the Media Impact Partners’ webinar on news deserts.