Colorado Media Project: Bringing Local News Back to Locals
By Cassie Vander Meer, second year graduate student, MA in international & intercultural communication
In an age of declining trust in news and an over-reliance on social media, news — especially local news — around the country has been suffering. Colorado, too, has felt the effects, but a new project seeks to bring local news back to Coloradoans. The Colorado Media Project was formed to find out what's happening and why, and how local news can move forward.
In the spring of 2018, the Colorado Media Project was formed by "students, journalists, entrepreneurs, civic leaders, and community members of varied backgrounds, interests and geographies," according to the project's website. Members from across the DU community played key roles in the development and progress of this project, including J.B. Holston (dean of the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering); Cultivo Media (a student start-up involved in researching and prototyping); and me, Cassie Vander Meer (international and intercultural communication graduate student and Project X-ITE's graduate Student Innovation Fellow). Other DU affiliates also found ways to be involved, like our very own Media, Film & Journalism Studies Chair, Lynn Schofield Clark, who offered her expertise in journalism and Colorado news. Outside of the DU community, well-known community leaders and groups contributed their knowledge and time to the project, namely Roxane White, the project manager; the Gates Family Foundation; and the Boston Consulting Group, which offered their knowledge and resources pro bono.
The Colorado Media Project has researched and identified the problems faced by local news by connecting with their constituents, bringing the community together to develop solutions, and creating prototypes as possible solutions for local news and consumers.
Rapid changes across Colorado's media landscape have fed a disconnect between the people and their news sources, especially in the local news mediascape. During its research phase this summer, the Colorado Media Project found that large news conglomerates' lack of interest in local stories coupled with dwindling consumer trust in media have stifled access to reliable sources. In turn, this has reduced Coloradoans' ability to participate in important civic conversations. So, what can be done to mend this disconnect and help Coloradoans become more involved in their local communities? The Colorado Media Project invited community members to participate in an ideation session.
The ideation session took place on July 21, 2018 and included a diverse collection of community members, ranging from students to professional journalists. During this one-day session, participants worked in groups to tackle four "How might we...?" questions: 1) ...give someone the news they need to feel smart and confident in their social circles (social capital). 2) ...help people get outside their bubbles by making someone they disagree with trustworthy? 3) ...make people identify and engage with state news as they do with national news? 4) ...make local news as attractive during leisure time as national news? This one-day brainstorming resulted in many great ideas that formed the basis for the prototyping phase.
Throughout August 2018, the student start-up Cultivo Media brought together the research and the results of the ideation session to develop four prototype solutions to the problems faced by Colorado's local media. Initially, the group set out to create one prototype from the acquired data but quickly realized that the four questions required four different solutions. The resulting prototypes addressed different aspects of the overall problem:
1. GeoStory – a map-based app allowing users to see news stories based on a user's frequented locations.
2. StoryHound – a quick-swipe style app enabling users to quickly update themselves on current events.
3. InSpectre News – an app offering users the opportunity to read about a story from varying perspectives.
4. The Daily Snack – a curated-to-the-user news feed for quick morning and evening updates on current events.
On September 24, 2018, the project hosted a Community Report-Out event at which the groups involved offered their final insights; the summary and links to detailed information can be found here. J.B. Holston and the Gates Family Foundation also hinted at the future of the Colorado Media Project: researching the interest in and viability of a Colorado News Lab and a Colorado News Fund to help local news keep pace with the changing media landscape. Before this future can come to fruition, however, the project must get through its next phase in garnering community support and has stepped back slightly from the public light. Perhaps in spring 2019 we'll hear more from the Colorado Media Project and how it plans to bring local news back to the locals.