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Executive Director’s note: This week, we’re taking you behind the scenes of a special Carolina Public Press project, NC Connection: Closing the News Gap. We’ve launched an expansive, data-driven research project to determine what the news gaps are in rural communities where high-speed internet is currently expensive, inaccessible or simply not available. Plus, we want to know how these communities want to get their news and information when hopping online simply isn’t an option.

Rural North Carolina, like many other areas of the country, is facing a serious decline in local journalism. Already, nearly half of North Carolina’s counties have become news deserts, where there are fewer options for residents to find information about local news, politics, events, community issues and more. Additionally, only 40% of North Carolina households have access to reliable, high-speed internet, making it difficult for those with limited connections to access online news organizations. It is in this challenging climate that Carolina Public Press launched our research project NC Connection: Closing the News Gap, which aims to help us, and in turn newsrooms across the state (and even beyond), understand how best to serve rural communities.

How are we getting this input? Many ways. But a comprehensive, statewide survey available in both English and Spanish is first and foremost.

Only 40% of North Carolina households have access to reliable, high-speed internet, making it difficult for those with limited internet connections to access online news organizations.

What do we hope to learn?

The NC Connection survey is up and running and being shared via our partners and the public, and we’ll soon begin analyzing the responses we’ve received.

Using mapping and data provided by the N.C. Department of Information Technology, we identified 30 high-needs counties where we’ll focus our outreach and in-person activities. Concentrated in the far western and eastern parts of the state, these counties have limited broadband accessibility and more limited access to local news sources. We want to learn: What gaps in local news coverage exist in these communities? Are there gaps related to spotty — or lack of — internet? Do residents read the news on their smartphones? Do they read news websites? What kinds of news are most important to the folks in these areas, and how would they prefer to receive it? Using current market research techniques and tools, we’ve developed a survey that we hope will help us answer many of these questions. 

We want to hear from you

If you live in a rural community or small town in North Carolina, we want to hear from you.

The NC Connection survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete and will provide us with valuable information that will help shape the future of our newsroom and other newsrooms across the state. Your individual answer will remain anonymous, but we’ll use it to gain important information. Plus, you can earn gift cards for participating. Our results will be transparent and published widely.

It has never been more important to give voice to rural communities, especially those without accessible high-speed internet, and we hope you’ll participate in this unique opportunity to shape the future of news in your area.

In order to reach our goal of hearing from as many rural residents as possible, we’re going to need your help. You can access the survey here in English and Spanish. Please take it, and please share it with your neighbors, family members, co-workers, networks and any local organizations that you think we should be working with.

The project will wrap up in the fall, so it is crucial that we use the summer months to collect as much information as we can. 

Visit NC Connection: Closing the News Gap

Find all the project information in one place.

Thank you for your help in making this project a reality. We at Carolina Public Press are so excited to collect this valuable information as part of our mission of public service to the people of North Carolina. If you have questions or comments, or need more information about the project or survey, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Rural Engagement Manager Lindsey Wilson.

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