Frequently Asked Questions

1.What is a “media desert”?

A media desert is a geographic location that lacks access to fresh, local news and information. We are looking at print news publications such as daily and weekly newspapers, radio, television and broadband access. We believe that news deserts are a subset of our model that looks at the content. Our model seeks to make visible the code, content and conduit layers and how they affect access to news and information as well.

2. What do you propose to do?

We’re using GIS tools and circulation data to create a map that tracks changes in the reach and penetration of community news.

3. How will your project make data more useful?

Newspaper circulation data is available in electronic form, but not digital. Our map would digitize circulation data and highlight communities that are lacking access to local news and information. Our goal is to influence local and national policy to help spark journalistic innovations in these “media deserts”.

4. How is your project different from what already exists?

We have no national picture of the effects of newspaper cutbacks. We are creating a “media desert” map with circulation data for daily newspapers that shows where changes are occurring.

5. Why will it work?

More than 120 newspapers have ceased operation in the United States since 2008. The Pew Center, New America Foundation and the FCC report disturbing effects of newspaper changes, broadband access and other media access issues. Across every state of the nation, community residents are experiencing growing voids in local news coverage. Just as the USDA food desert map has galvanized community conversation and action around remedies, we believe visualization of community media systems will help illuminate where news is lacking. Our map will help monitor the system over time and focus attention and resources where they are most needed.

5. Who is working on it?

Dr. Michelle Ferrier, the principal investigator for the project, is the Associate Dean for Innovation, Research/Creative Activity and Graduate Studies at the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University. Ferrier is also part of a larger collaboration of university researchers examining the changing media system for the Federal Communications Commission.

6. What is your current status on the project?

We are currently building a collaborative of researchers at Ohio University in geography and public policy to be part of the team. We are also working with the Association for Alternative Newsweeklies to add their membership to the model.

7. How do I know if I live in a “media desert”? What can I do?

We are creating state level maps and other visuals that show areas that lack coverage. We are also working with community stakeholders to map community assets and host community convenings to help communities create solutions. For a more complete community news and information audit or community workshops, please contact Dr. Michelle Ferrier at (740) 593-9860 or ferrierm@ohio.edu.



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