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At Carolina Public Press, we are committed to shining a light on topics of importance to our readers. Thanks to a positive response to our NC Connection: Closing the News Gap project  news survey, we now have data to support the conversations we had with communities across North Carolina about what topics are of greatest importance to them. The NC Connection project may be done collecting information and reporting to our funders, but our work on the topic of rural news access has only just begun. 

Moving forward, we have a much better sense of what stories rural residents of North Carolina want to hear, how they get their news and what kind of internet access issues they have. As a news organization dedicated to public service, this information is invaluable as we consider what kinds of stories to pursue as well as how to deliver the information to underserved audiences. We hope that the project results will help us to engage with our community of readers in ways that enrich and inform. 

On Feb. 8, we released the project’s final conclusions and reports. Our 12-page Findings Report is available to download on the landing page, in both English and Spanish. The report summarizes the research and offers recommendations for how CPP will integrate this information into current and future reporting and engagement projects. It also offers suggestions for others who are interested in learning about their local areas’ news needs and how to engage in improving and driving local news coverage.

At a glance

Findings:

  • Among our most important findings was the racial disparity in home internet connectivity rates, with Latino respondents reporting the lowest rates of internet at home (84%) compared with 94% for the total population. 
  • Preferred news delivery was online (60.2%), though local papers, radio stations, TV and cellphone also had rates of response. 

Conclusions: 

  • The majority of people surveyed get their news from multiple sources, but it appears that television news is on the decline among survey participants. More respondents got news from the internet and cellphones than any other sources. 
  • We learned that there is a gap in Spanish news media, meaning that there are few local news resources for Spanish speakers, especially in rural places. Participants in our bilingual focus group spoke about the alternative means they use to access local information, including church bulletins and WhatsApp text threads. We hope to continue to build relationships with the Latino community to better serve this population.

Next steps at Carolina Public Press: 

  • CPP will work to identify and develop novel news products and audience-specific community partnerships, including newsletters and direct-to-consumer text messaging newsrooms that will be tailored to specific audiences in need of investigative and public interest journalism in English and Spanish.
  • Expand and prioritize the text message news delivery system to reach and engage more digitally challenged rural residents.

Recommendations to journalists and communities:

  • Start a community listserv or text message chain in rural areas to disseminate reliable, accurate and trustworthy news that’s independent of social media. 
  • Take an audience-first approach and review audience data from this survey and others when planning beats, coverage and projects. 
  • Challenge assumptions and stereotypes about rural communities and look for their inherent diversity, complexity and authenticity, especially those residents who are typically missing from standard beat coverage.

Please visit the NC Connection website to read the full report today. To request a hard copy of the report in English or Spanish, please contact Rural Engagement Manager Lindsey Wilson at lwilson@carolinapublicpress.org.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Send an email to news@carolinapublicpress.org.

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