Developing Indicators for Healthy News Ecologies

Convener: Dr. Michelle Ferrier
Participants: Susan Abbott, Emily Guerin, Tess Doezema, Cally Carswell, Sandra Fish, Lynn Schofield Clark, Tom Glaisyer.

*Michelle: worked with meteorologists and plotting LANDSAT points, so coming at this from high and low level views.

Began to look at news as food. Looked at food cycle and compared it to news and information. (Also run a food news site.) USDA came out with a food desert map recently. Attempt to define what a food desert was. Took census data, then created definitions of how far people lived from fresh food sources. But what was important was what happened: was an epiphany, changed conversation at regional and local level about a problem that hadn’t really discussed. How does transportation exacerbate the problem? How can people get to farmer’s markets? Etc.

What are the things that constitute a healthy news ecology? And how will we know we’ve done our job well? Created healthy communities with useful / important news and information.

What is a media desert? Geographic area lacking fresh news and information. Daily, even weekly. This condition may be as a result of a lack of content, access, language barriers and other issues.

Framework of analysis:
*Code: language, spoken or written or computer languages
*Content: News, information, images
*Conduit: Newspapers, radio, mobile

When N.C. paper contracted, subscriptions dropped in core coverage area too b/c newspaper got flimsier, its perceived value dropped

Right now, really trying to define what a media desert is. And find indicators — how do we measure the value of what we produce?

What does a healthy, engaged community look like? Voting patterns, etc.
*How do you get metrics that are generalizable, and can dig into what is a healthy ecosystem? Then, how useful is that going to be to the world? Is it really that we need to understand that South High School is the most important thing? To understand that community, you really need to understand that high school.

*Do our ideas of what journalism is need to change? Information networking with people who care about certain things.