We’re launching News Voices: North Carolina in 2017 to forge connections between North Carolinians and the newsrooms that serve them. We’re beginning our community-engagement initiatives in Charlotte and the Triangle, and we anticipate working in places like Asheville, the Triad and Wilmington. We’ll host small gatherings, trainings and public conversations. We’ll foster collaborations between newsrooms and community groups. We’ll strengthen networks of journalists, media makers and people who care about quality local news and information, building stronger bonds statewide to foster better and more sustainable news coverage of North Carolina.
We believe this is a critical moment to build bridges between journalism and civic life. Healthy communities need quality local news, and people active in civic life need timely, credible, factual information on which to base their actions and inform their advocacy. The future of journalism and the future of democracy are intertwined.
The economic, demographic and political trends now happening across the country have been playing out in North Carolina for some time. The state’s media landscape is also changing — from the shrinking staff and influence of its newspapers to the rise of promising journalism startups — in ways that reflect national trends.
The urban-rural divide that defines North Carolina’s politics is also reflected in its media. While the state is home to two of the nation’s top 25 broadcast markets, suburban and rural communities rely on small community newspapers that are growing more consolidated all the time. No matter where you live in the Tar Heel State, it’s getting harder to find coverage of local school boards, town councils and how lawmakers’ decisions in Raleigh affect your life. And while the state is growing more racially and ethnically diverse, newsrooms lack the diversity to represent residents’ varied perspectives.
Yet North Carolina is also home to a handful of stalwart locally owned outlets, strong public-broadcasting stations and trusted ethnic media. High-quality nonprofit news organizations are filling the gaps in reporting on health, education and the environment statewide and in providing regional news in the west and on the coast. All of these organizations enjoy community goodwill, but some need help translating that support into financial sustainability. Nascent partnerships are forming, and institutions such as universities and philanthropic organizations are eager to learn how they can help nurture a stronger news ecology in the state.
News Voices: North Carolina will shore up those initiatives and help build collaborations between residents and newsrooms across the state.
We play the role of connector and bridge builder, holding people and communities at the center of our work as we reach out to journalists and other media makers. We offer capacity to newsrooms so they can engage the public, creating opportunities for reporters to listen to and connect with residents. We lend support to community groups and find ways they can contribute quality information to the local news ecosystem. We raise up the perspectives of people who have historically been left out of public conversations. We connect newsrooms and civic organizations to creative, innovative engagement projects in other parts of the country. We’re setting out to find the stories that need to be told and build the connections and partnerships to tell them.
We aim to put in motion a virtuous cycle of trust, quality news and sustainable media: As newsrooms engage their communities and allow them to help set the news agenda, reporters will have greater insights about local concerns and start to regard their readers, viewers and listeners as constituents, not consumers. As community members come to believe their perspectives are heard, valued and reflected in local coverage, they will trust their local newsrooms more. This sense of empowerment and investment in local media will lead to deeper support for journalism and press freedom.
We’re listening to what local communities in North Carolina need and nurturing the assets they have to build on. After all, this is the state where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.
To make News Voices work, we need to partner with the people who live there: Journalists, community leaders, activists, academics, artists, philanthropists, faith leaders and more. If we join together, we can give voice to stories that matter and help those stories make a strong impact. We can make North Carolina a model for the future of news.
Want to get involved? Email News Voices: North Carolina Director Fiona Morgan to find out how to participate.