Community Journalism Journal Volume 10

Locating the Media’s Role in Empathy for Immigration


The relationship between media consumption and attitudes about immigration is well established, but with a focus on national news outlets. The role of local media consumption is not as well understood. This study surveyed residents of Texas (N=316) which shares two-thirds of the United States’ border, and Ohio (N=322) which is less diverse and politically predictable. Reading Ohio newspapers predicted significantly less support for immigration; reading national newspapers, more support. Local TV viewing wasn’t significant.


There is a long body of scholarship on the relationship between contentious social issues (i.e., abortion, race relations, immigration), news consumption, and attitudes about those issues (Kellstedt, 2003; Watson & Riffe, 2012; Price & Kaufhold, 2019). The role of ideological media consumption in this relationship, like Fox News Channel and MSNBC, is especially well-researched (Garrett, Carnahan & Lynch, 2013; Jahng, 2018; Dahlgren, Shehata & Strömback, 2019). Lesser understood, and of particular interest to those with an interest in this publication, is the role of local and community journalism sources with regard to contentious issues. A particularly salient one in the current political environment is immigration.

Since at least the start of the Reagan administration (Cornelius, 1981) immigration has been a prominent national political issue in the United States. Donald J. Trump made immigration the centerpiece of his run for the White House (Newport, 2015; Felter, Renwick & Cheatham, 2020). At his campaign kickoff, in June, 2015, he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Trump talked throughout his campaign of building a border wall and instituting other, more rigorous measures to stem what he referred to as an “invasion” (Corasaniti, 2016; Reilly, 2016).

Despite polling data showing that immigration wasn’t a dominant issue to Republican voters that year, candidate Trump finished a close second to Senator Ted Cruz in the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucus Feb. 1, and on Feb. 9, Trump won the second race by a two-to-one margin – the first primary, in New Hampshire (NBC News, 2016; New York Times, 2016; Pew, 2016). Trump campaigned for a comprehensive border wall, large-scale removal of undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. and tighter restrictions on travel from half a dozen primarily Muslim countries (Corasaniti, 2016). As President, Trump instituted policies to criminalize crossing the border without documentation, resulting in the controversial child separation policy (Rizzo, 2018).

Immigration reemerged as a major national issue in the second month of the Biden Administration as border crossings increased to the point that the Department of Homeland Security predicted a record year in 2021 for family immigration (Miroff & Sacchetti, 2021). Immigration detentions set records again in 2022 and 2023 and continued to grow into 2024 (TRAC Immigration, 2024). Both political parties made hay out of the issue as Republican and Democrat lawmakers paid separate visits to the border in March, 2021 – reporting very different perspectives of the same scene (Gamboa, Shabad & Gregorian, 2021; Phillips, 2021). In February 2024, both Biden and Trump visited the Texas border with Mexico, to argue for and against a Democrat-supported bill to secure the border (Despart & Melhado, 2024).

Of interest in this study is whether consuming local mainstream sources contrasts with the well-established pattern of ideological news consumption and attitudes on contentious issues. There is some divergence about the effect of exposure to ideological media sources. Some studies show that exposure to consonant media leads to ideological self-isolation and a reduction in exposure to opposing media (Stroud, 2007; Dahlgren, Shehata & Strömbäck, 2019). But other scholarship has found that exposure to agreeable positions fuels curiosity about opposing viewpoints, and that even consumers mostly practicing selective exposure are still often exposed to objective or dissonant media (Garrett, Carnahan & Lynch, 2013; Jahng, 2018; Dahlgren, Shehata & Strömback, 2019).

An important consideration is the outsized role of party identity in a host of variables relevant to this body of research: selective exposure to pro-attitudinal media; acceptance of, or skepticism toward, mainstream legacy media outlets; and cynicism about and distrust of science, including survey research. Most of the body of research on selective exposure and reinforcing ideology has focused on national partisan outlets, including conservative talk radio, ideological cable news outlets MSNBC and Fox News Channel, and social media echo chambers. But the role of local media consumption on ideological topics, like immigration, isn’t as well understood. Comparing, or contrasting, between local and partisan national media is the focus of this study.


Partisan Media

Partisan media, for more than a century, has had a national influence. Newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst reported with a conservative bent, especially against President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal (Nasaw, 2001). Even before that, the Los Angeles Times, under Republican activist publisher Harrison Gray Otis, opposed organized labor and supported economic development. His son-in-law, Harry, established the Chandler family ownership of the Times, which continued to lean to the right until the social turmoil of the 1960s (Goldstein, 2009; McDougal, 2002). In the years during and after World War II, ideological conservatives established numerous outlets in an effort to influence public opinion and policy, including the Christian Nationalist The Cross and the Flag starting in 1942, Human Events in 1944, William F. Buckley’s National Review in 1955, and the anticommunist Dan Smoot Report in 1957, and others (Hemmer, 2016; Nash, 1976). In more recent years, syndicated talk radio benefited from the demise of the longstanding Fairness Doctrine, which previously required equal treatment of opposing political viewpoints on public airways. The Federal Communications Commission abolished the doctrine in 1987; Rush Limbaugh’s radio show debuted in 1988 (Berry & Sobieraj, 2011; Editors of Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 2021). But Limbaugh was not even close to being the first influential conservative voice on radio. He was preceded half a century earlier by Catholic priest, Father Charles Coughlin, who railed against communism and unions, and for Wall Street and capitalism, to his 90 million listeners (Krebs, 1979; Vultee, 2023).

The widespread dissemination of cable television and commensurate popularity of CNN in the early 1980s set the stage for ideological cable news outlets. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel launched in October, 1996, grew steadily to reach 17% of the U.S. audience by 2000, and became the top-rated cable news outlet in January of 2002, surpassing CNN (DellaVigna & Kaplan, 2007). As Fox News disseminated into new media markets, it was linked with an increase in Republican voter participation and GOP candidate success in those markets  (DellaVigna & Kaplan, 2007). Fox remained the top-rated cable news source for 19 years, falling again, to CNN in 2021; CNN, ironically, was aided by two new more conservative upstarts chipping away at Fox’s viewership: NewsMax and One America News Network (Beer, 2021).

Local News

After a period of partisan ownership from the founding of the United States through the Civil War, local media migrated away from partisan portrayals to more objective reporting through the 20th Century (Schweikart, 2014). That began to change over the last decade, again due to federal regulatory changes – this time, about media ownership. Aggregation of newspapers began in earnest in the 1970s and has accelerated dramatically in the last decade, with Gannett/Gatehouse now owning about 260 papers (Kaufhold, 2020; Pickard, 2018). FCC policy changed in 2017 to allow greater aggregation, including – for the first time – the ownership of newspapers and televisions in the same market (Shepardson, 2019). While aggregation did predict an increase in identical content across news outlets in an owner’s portfolio, in most cases it was objective or nonpolitical content (Kaufhold, 2020). But one television station group owner, Sinclair Broadcasting, disseminated partisan messages across dozens – perhaps more than 100 – local television newscasts from coast to coast. One, a conservative opinion script which warned viewers to not trust fake news – presumably, news outlets not owned by Sinclair (Fortin & Bromwich, 2018) received a lot of attention. At the time, Sinclair owned 193 local television stations – most of which broadcast local news. Sinclair’s portfolio of stations at that time, April of 2018, reached 40% of American households (Matthews, 2018).

Community Journalism

Reader (2012) argues that community journalism is defined as the relationship between journalists and the communities they report on. That civic connection runs through local newspapers and local television and radio, and local journalists have reported feeling a greater responsibility to serve their geographic community than those at larger news outlets (Reader, 2012). Local news, even in daily news outlets, has been linked with increased community involvement by those who consume that news (Lowery, 2008; Reader, 2012). Local newspapers have been shown to foster community building, which can create social capital and increase citizen agency in important community decisions (Nicodemus, 2004). Local news outlets have also been shown to increase accountability for local leaders, foster community by better connecting consumers to where they live, and often serve as the primary source for local information (Radcliffe & Ali, 2018).

Local Newspapers
and Local Television News

Local newspapers have long been established as leaders in providing audiences with local information and accountability (McCombs & Funk, 2011). Local papers have been associated with residents being more informed about their communities, but local television has been shown to be a better source to generate interest in local politics (McLeod, et al., 1996; Yanich, 2016). Also, intermedia agenda setting has, for decades, woven the same news stories throughout the fabric of a local news landscape as local television news outlets mimic coverage in their local papers, and vice versa (Dearing & Rogers, 1996; McCombs & Funk, 2011). Covering local stories has also been shown to be good for business, increasing the perceived value of a news outlet among residents, especially in local TV (Yanich, 2016). Distinctions between local newspapers and television news sources exist but, as far as story selection, they are often more alike than dissimilar.


Immigration is increasingly appearing as a contentious political topic among local lawmakers. State legislatures passed 90 percent more immigration bills in 2017 than in the year before (Felter, Renwick & Cheatham, 2020). California lawmakers passed a law allowing state identification cards, including California driver’s licenses, for undocumented immigrants – the latest in a years-long push to decriminalize undocumented migration in the Golden State (Eagly, 2017; Enriquez, Vera & Ramakrishnan, 2019). Texas lawmakers took the opposite tack, passing a law against “sanctuary cities” in 2017 and, in some years, leading the nation in generating subfederal, or state-level, immigration policies (Butz & Kehrberg, 2019; Matos, 2017). Arizona was found to have the most restrictive state-level immigration policies; California, the least. Ohio fell in-between (Wills & Commins, 2018).

News sources headquartered in states along the southern border have been shown to have two differences from more distant states: First, they’re more likely to cover the border; second, they tend to be more nuanced or supportive of immigration than states in the Midwest or South. (Branton & Dunaway, 2009). Consequently, public opinion among border-state residents has been found to be more accepting, or at least open-minded, when it comes to immigration (Dunaway, Branton, & Abrajano, 2010). With that in mind, the present study surveyed residents from two states in an effort to capture not only the differences of consuming national versus local media, but to identify whether there were distinctions between local media in different areas of the country. Texas leans conservative and shares the longest border with Mexico of any state – 1,254 miles; Ohio has been highly predictive in Presidential elections for decades, which makes it the ultimate predictive swing state.

The demographics of Texas and Ohio are also substantially different, especially concerning the number of Hispanics in each. Texas has the third-largest proportion of Hispanics in the country (39.1%; Census, 2018) and ranks second by actual population numbers. Ohio is home to fewer than one-tenth as many Hispanics, at 3.7% of the state’s population (Census, 2019). Texas also has a substantially more undocumented immigrants: 6.1% of the population, versus Ohio’s 0.8% (Pew Research Center, 2016).

Immigration attitudes and media habits are a well-established area of scholarship and studies have found a significant effect from consuming partisan media (Price & Kaufhold, 2019). Much contemporary research on media consumption and attitudes on contentious political issues, like immigration, focus on the effects of selective exposure to partisan media (Stroud, 2007; Garrett, Carnahan & Lynch, 2013). But the effect of local media consumption on partisan flashpoints, like immigration, hasn’t been as well studied, despite research showing that local and national media cover immigration differently, especially in border states (Branton & Dunaway, 2009; Dunaway, Branton, & Abrajano, 2010). This study examines the following research questions:

RQ1: How will local newspaper consumption relate to attitudes on immigration?

RQ2: How will local television news consumption relate to attitudes on immigration?

Conservative Cynicism

Conservatives – and to a lesser extent, progressives – have been shown to be distrustful of science and academia. A substantial longitudinal study found trust in science was stable for the last quarter of the 20th Century except among conservatives, whose trust in science faded from higher than progressives in 1975 to much lower by 2010 (Gauchat, 2012). The only other predictive independent variable was level of religious belief, which also predicted the same decline in trust in science (Gauchat, 2012). Religious belief and trust in science were also shown to be inversely related, with a belief that scientists’ perceived atheism made them a potential threat to those with religious beliefs (Simpson & Rios, 2019).

Message exposure matters, though. Partisans (both sides) express distrust of a science message after exposure to a media message with which they disagree; for example, anthropogenic global warming among conservatives or hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas extraction among progressives, although conservatives were shown to be more reactive (Nisbet, Cooper & Garrett, 2015). The source of a message has also been shown to influence partisan resistance to or support of a message. Exhortations for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic were generally more palatable to those on the left but were made more palatable if the appeal to social distance came from a Republican source (Koetke, Schumann & Porter, 2021).

This distrust in science and, more so, in scientists, is increasingly reflected in public opinion polling since 2016 (Matthews, 2020). Fairly suddenly, poll results began over-predicting support for Democrats, and even adjustments for the 2018 and 2020 midterm and presidential elections didn’t correct what appears to be a reluctance by conservatives to participate in polling (Cohn, 2022; Ekins, 2020; Matthews, 2020). The possible implications here of this conservative reticence to respond to online surveys is discussed later in this study.

Conservatives also express distrust of legacy news outlets, especially those which lead intermedia agenda setting, the New York Times and Washington Post. Not only conservatives perceive that those newspapers lean left. Hawdon, et al. (2020) found, for example, that participants in their study reported CNN showed 57% more liberal polarization than a neutral position; Fox News was one-fifth as likely to show that lean to the left. But both the Washington Post and New York Times were perceived as being significantly liberally polarized. Consequently, conservative news consumers report being highly unlikely to trust and consume news from those two papers while showing strong favoritism for Fox News (Hawdon, et al., 2020; Price & Kaufhold, 2019). Based on this literature, the study will also examine the following research question:

RQ3: How will party identity relate to news consumption and attitudes on immigration?


A panel survey was executed online in the spring of 2018, opening March 26 and closing April 11; it captured valid responses from 638 participants. Respondents were represented about equally between the Ohio (N=322) and Texas (N=316). Respondents were presented with three matrix questions, two of which included topics around immigration which are detailed below. The third matrix used a 5-point scale to measure consumption (1 = Rarely/Never, 5 = Often) of 28 news sources (New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN. MSNBC, Fox News Channel, ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, local TV news, news radio, talk radio, Huffington Post, Drudge Report, Daily Kos, Breitbart, other; and, in Ohio, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch; and in Texas, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express News). The local papers were all selected because they were the three largest-circulation papers in each respective state, and served the three largest population centers in each state: Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, and San Antonio Express News.

In order to quantify the level of polarization on immigration issues, survey respondents were asked to select their support for a number of immigration-related topics on a 5-point Likert-type scale (1 = Not at all supportive; 5 = Very supportive). The 11 items in the matrix question were all drawn from contemporary news coverage to make them even more salient to the study of media choice and attitudes. They were: 1) Building a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; 2) DACA or Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals; 3) Pathway for citizenship for Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals; 4) Sanctuary cities; 5) Immigrant detention centers; 6) Deportation arrests at courthouses by immigration agents; 7) Raids at workplaces by immigration agents; 8) Fines for U.S. businesses that hire undocumented workers; 9) Increased deportations of undocumented immigrants; 10) Birthright citizenship; and 11) Increased border surveillance. A second matrix asked respondents to rate support for seven general immigration issues, and two specific to Syrian/Muslim immigrants, including: 1) Merit-based immigration; 2) Family reunification (“chain migration”); 3) Extreme vetting; 4) Temporary work visas (“guest workers”); 5) Temporary protected status for work; 6) Temporary protected status due to environmental disaster or ongoing armed conflict in a home country; 7) Diversity visa lottery system; 8) Trump administration travel ban from seven predominately Muslim countries; 9) Syrian refugees resettlement. A 5-point Likert-type scale (1 = Not at all supportive. 5 = Very supportive) asked how supportive respondents were of immigration from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Mexico/Latin America.

Texans in the survey were younger, more male, and had higher incomes (see Table 1) and levels of education than Ohioans. Respondents in both states leaned more toward the Democratic party, but Texans were significantly more likely than Ohioans to identify as Independent or Republican. U.S. Census data shows that Ohio’s population is 51% female; 12.9% black; 3.8% Hispanic Median household income is $52,407. Texas’s population is 50.3% female; 12.7% black; 39.4% Hispanic, and median household income is $57,051 (Census, 2018).

Table 1

Participants in 2016 CCES survey and 2018 Ohio/Texas survey
2018 2-state panel survey (Ohio, n=322; Texas, n=316)

2018 2-State survey




Average Age *



Gender (Female)***















Middle Eastern



Native American


















Education Mean (3=Some College; 4=2-year degree)



Household income Mean (5=$40,000-$49,999)



*** p=</001; ** p=<.01; * p=<.05; + p=<.10

Four conservative outlets emerged from Varimax component matrix factor analysis (Fox News, conservative talk radio, Drudge Report, Breitbart). These were scaled into a single Conservative Media variable (Cronbach’s =.736). National Public Radio (NPR) emerged with three openly liberal media outlets to form a Liberal Media variable (NPR, Daily Kos, MSNBC and Huffington Post; Cronbach’s =.803).

From the 2-state survey, two immigration scales were crafted to test partisan media use and attitudes on immigration. Varimax component matrix factor analysis identified 13 items which loaded high, all opposed to immigration (building a border wall; immigrant detention centers; deportation arrests at courthouses; raids at workplaces; fines for U.S. business which hire undocumented workers; increased deportations; increased border surveillance; the Trump Administration travel ban; immigrants are a burden on the country because they take our jobs, housing and health care; America is too open to people from all over the world; undocumented immigrants commit more crimes than American citizens; immigration increases America’s risk of a terrorist attack; and controlling and reducing illegal immigration is an important foreign policy tool). An Immigration Negative measure crafted from these items showed exceptionally high reliability (Cronbach’s =.950).

An Immigration Positive scale was crafted in the same way. Fourteen items (DACA; pathway to citizenship; sanctuary cities; birthright citizenship; family reunification/chain migration; temporary protected status due to natural or manmade disaster; sympathetic to undocumented immigrants; supportive of immigration from Africa, Asia, Middle East, Mexico/Latin America; America’s openness to people from all over the world is essential to who we are as a people; the U.S. government should make it possible for illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens; and the number of people allowed to legally move to the U.S. should be increased) Positive toward immigration showed good reliability (Cronbach’s =.931).


Geography clearly plays a role in audience attitudes about immigration. Reading Texas newspapers, despite – or perhaps because of – the state’s substantial border with Mexico didn’t significantly influence attitudes about immigration. Respondents reading national newspapers or watching partisan cable television news behaved in predictable ways, based on previous scholarship. And the effect wasn’t nearly as strong as the national news outlets – for example, reading Ohio newspapers didn’t relate to a negative relationship with support for immigration; only a significant relationship with opposition to immigration.

Regression analysis examined two scaled dependent variables: Support for immigration, based on 14 items in the Immigration Positive Scale; and opposition to immigration, comprised of 13 items against it. Independent variables were scales of different types of media consumption – especially readers of local newspapers in Ohio or Texas, but also partisan news consumers in each state (four items each comprising Conservative or Liberal news).

Living near the border in Texas, surrounded by a significant Hispanic population, seemed to soften the effect of conservative media consumption (see Table 2). Ohio conservatives (consumers of Conservative Media) were a little more opposed to immigration (Immigration Negative) than Texas conservatives; but Ohio liberals (consumers of Liberal Media) were also a little more supportive of immigration than Texas liberals. All the relationships yielded significant differences. Reading Ohio newspapers, or watching conservative cable TV news, predicted significant negative support for, or opposition to, immigration. Reading Texas newspapers didn’t relate significantly to support for or opposition to immigration; but reading Ohio newspapers does significantly predict opposition to immigration (Table 3).

Table 2

Linear Regression, Conservative/Liberal media, Immigration Positive/Negative, by state

Immigration positive+



Adjusted R2


Ohio Cons Media





Texas Cons Media





Ohio Liberal Media





Texas Liberal Media





Immigration negative-



Adjusted R2


Ohio Cons Media





Texas Cons Media





Ohio Liberal Media





Texas Liberal Media





Reading national newspapers, in both Ohio and Texas, predicted significantly more support for immigration, as did watching evening national broadcast TV news. (see Table 3).

Table 3

Linear Regression, Local versus National News Outlets, Immigration Positive/Negative

Immigration pos+



Adjusted R2


Ohio newspapers





National newspapers




Immigration pos+



Adjusted R2


Texas newspapers





National newspapers




Immigration neg-



Adjusted R2


Ohio newspapers





National newspapers




Immigration neg-



Adjusted R2


Texas newspapers





National newspapers




Immigration pos+



Adjusted R2


Local TV news





National TV news




Conservative cable




Immigration neg-



Adjusted R2


Local TV news





National TV news




Conservative cable




The Conservative and Liberal media scales are also predictive of support for, or opposition to, immigration and in predictable ways. Conservative media consumption (Fox News, conservative talk radio, Drudge Report, Breitbart) significantly predicted less support for immigration; more opposition to it. This was, as expected, a mirror image of consuming liberal media (NPR, Daily Kos, MSNBC and Huffington Post) which predicted significantly more support for immigration.


Local media consumption was partially predictive of attitudes about immigration: reading local newspapers in Ohio was linked with significantly more negative attitudes about immigration; there was no local newspaper effect in Texas. Reading national newspapers was predictive of significantly more positive attitudes about immigration. The local newspaper finding in Ohio may be an artifact of an intervening variable; for example, data from Pew (Shearer, 2018) and others has robustly shown that newspapers are increasingly read by older Americans, and older Americans – especially whites – have been shown to be less receptive to immigration. These are also the demographic members most likely to be in the audience for conservative media, such as Fox News Channel. At the same time, the average age of a television news viewer is now over 60 and climbing by the year (Shafer, 2024). Ohioans average about five years older than Texans, in both Census data and this sample, which may also independently predict less support for immigration.

The pedigree and editorial slant of each newspaper may also play a role. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a turbulent ideological history, starting in the 1840s and, for a brief period, becoming an outpost of Confederate opinion in a Union state (Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, n.d.). From 1940 onward, though, the Plain Dealer endorsed the Republican candidate in every presidential election except two: Lyndon Johnson in 1964, in the wake of the Kennedy assassination; and Bill Clinton’s youthful run in 1992. The Columbus Dispatch also has a history of leaning right editorially. Editors endorsed Secretary Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016 but had previously endorsed every Republican candidate for president going back a century (Anderson, 2004; Tate, 2016). Obviously, the substantial Hispanic population of Texas – more than five times higher than in Ohio, per capita – may have an outsized influence. With exposure comes empathy.

The local newspaper finding is a bit of a surprise. Local newspapers have long been shown to be more thorough and credible than local television news (Maier, 2010). Also, as noted earlier, some local television station owners’ groups have been linked with more ideological, conservative-leaning valence with their news presentation, presumably in a way that would be less supportive of immigration (Hedding, Miller, Abdenour & Blankenship, 2019). To use Sinclair as an example, the company recently owned 11 television stations in Ohio and 23 across Texas (Bryan, 2018). Yet, the presence of those stations showed no significant relationship for or against immigration. Likewise, the Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board also endorsed the Republican candidate for president in every single presidential election from 1920 until it endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 (Bhatia, 2016). Clearly, the political legacy of these top three Ohio newspapers may attract more right-leaning readers. These papers may also play a role in intermedia agenda setting, influencing what appears in local television newscasts.

Local news – newspaper and television – is also likely to be more reflective of local political sentiments than national media (McCombs & Funk, 2011; Yanich, 2016). Local news consumption didn’t predict widespread changes in immigration attitudes, but it may be important to understand that local news may serve as an alternative pathway to the well-established role of national newspapers and partisan cable news in opinion formation.

The intervening role of geography also clearly plays a role. Were Ohio newspapers more likely than their Texas counterparts to cover immigration in an “Ohio way” – less supportive of immigration than those living much closer to the border and with a substantially larger Hispanic population? Or does it only reflect what polling data shows – less support for immigration among Ohioans than Texans, which reveals itself in the newspaper audience?

Is local news community journalism? One could argue, in an era of hedge-fund and aggregate ownership, that it isn’t – but respondents in this study viewed it that way, as indicated by their different perspectives on immigration, predicted by local vs. other news sources. Consumers of Ohio local media viewed immigration more negatively than did consumers of Texas local media. In both states, local news consumers viewed immigration more sympathetically than those who reported being more likely to consumer conservative national media, like Fox News Channel. Getting news from a local source, whether near the border or not, yielded more tolerance for immigration than did consumption of conservative news outlets; and even more so in Texas, near the border. Diverse news consumption is shown here, as in previous scholarship, to moderate views on contentious issues like immigration but the findings here support the important role of local media sources to be part of that conversation.

A final consideration is that Texas is now home to an enormous diaspora of people from other places, drawn to the Lone Star State by rapid expansion of the job market in the decade after the Great Recession. This influx of new “Texans,” including nearly 9,000 Ohioans who moved to Texas in 2019 alone (Census, 2019), couldn’t help but be exposed to a ubiquitous Hispanic population in the U.S.’s largest border state. Migrants who left the Buckeye State also reported higher incomes than those who remained (Hanauer, 2019). Ohio, by comparison, was much slower to recover, saw falling incomes and home prices, and suffered a net out-migration after the Great Recession (Hanauer, 2019). Ohio ranked sixth among all states for out-migration in 2018, up from seventh the year before and continuing a pattern dating to the recession in 2008 (Merritt, 2019). The search for employment was cited by 60.75% of those leaving Ohio, and those under 35 were most likely to leave.

This economic malaise may inform political inclinations much differently in Ohio than Texas. For example, after 20 years as a closely divided swing state (Bill Clinton won Ohio by 6% in 1996; every subsequent election through 2012 was closer), Ohio twice went for Republican Donald Trump by 8-point margins (FEC, 2020). Trump, obviously ran aggressively against immigration and instituted provocative policies like criminalizing undocumented immigration, leading to the separation of migrant children from their parents. Ohioans seemed more supportive of that immigration position than Texans, as told by Trumps’ vote margins.

Local News

There will be assertions that “local news” isn’t the same thing as “community journalism” which is understandable but, in this case, that assertion is misguided. Earlier literature establishes the important role of local news in community building, including informing and linking neighbors, informing them, and contributing to the development of social capital. Also, the outlets most often thought of as community journalism – small hyper-local weeklies – serve an essential role in their communities but are less likely to be able to invest time and money in covering a national issue like immigration – especially in a non-border state like Ohio. Finally, compared to partisan cable news outlets, like Fox News Channel and MSNBC, local television and newspaper newsrooms were shown here to make have a unique and valuable contribution to attitudes about this contentious issue.

This study captures an effect of local news consumption which is worthy of future study. Subsequent research should consider adding content analysis of local media in the comparative states and continue to drill down in a survey into voter attitudes about immigration policies and issues. This study administered the survey during the midterm election season. Administering it during a presidential election year would be much more likely to capture McCombs and Shaw’s (1972) “need for orientation” which would probably yield more stark relationships. Undecided voters who intended to vote in the highly contested 2016 and 2020 campaigns would likely have felt more strongly about the issue of immigration, increasing the likelihood of us capturing significant differences by media use and geographic location.

There would also be value to considering a third or even a fourth state of different ideology and demographic makeup – perhaps a much smaller border state, like New Mexico; or a Midwestern state with a significant Hispanic population, like Illinois. That diversity of respondents would likely offer some nuance to issue of immigration.

Also, the well-documented bias by conservatives against participating in survey research, and distrust of scientists and their motives, may have reduced their representation in this sample. This data was collected well into the window of conservative survey resistance which began, abruptly, in 2016. The topic of study here is controversial. It was, and still is, the central issue of consecutive presidential campaigns. In addition, this IRB-approved study was distributed with clear labeling that it was from an academic institution. Any, or all, of these factors could be expected to trigger conservative resistance to participation. There is evidence, based on the frequencies in both states showing party identification (Table 1, p. 10) suggesting that Republicans were underrepresented in this survey sample, although voter registration data from the Ohio Secretary of State in 2021 showed 11% more Democrats than Republicans (OhioSOS, 2021); Gallup data showed, in 2017 (the year before this survey), Texas registrations showed the state was 41% Republican, 38% Democrat (Gallup, 2017). Ohio respondents in this sample align nicely with state registrations but the data from Texas suggests an undercount of Republicans – perhaps due to conservative resistance to surveys and scientists. This could have minimized the effect of local news consumption by conservatives in Texas in this data.

Finally, this study chose immigration because it was a central issue to the current political milieu but scholars targeting these relationships in the future should design a study around the issue du jour of that contemporary political campaign. Regardless, the role of local media in opinion formation on national issues isn’t adequately studied and this scholarship found some small but important role in that relationship with Ohio newspapers. Media scholars and practitioners would both be well served by having a better understanding of that relationship.


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About the Author

Kelly Kaufhold is an associate professor of digital media innovation in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University.

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Community Journalism Journal Volume 10

“COVID guidelines? Or are we just wingin’ it?”: An analysis of pandemic-related public health content posted to location-based digital spaces


This is a mixed-method content analysis of posts made to geographically based community pages on the social link aggregation site Reddit. It examines the posts through the lens of the United States Federal Communication Commission’s identified community informational needs as defined by Friedland et al. (2012). Previous research on the topic found that the general information posted to those pages often fulfilled the community-based information needs, although not in a pure one-to-one analog for the traditional, centralized community news outlet. One of the shortcomings was a lack of public health information. However, no study has since been conducted on this content since the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped most of the world since early 2020. This study is a continuation of that line of research, examining if the content posted about COVID-19, masking, social distancing, and vaccinations to geographically based digital spaces has the potential to alleviate some of the information-flow problems caused by the collapse of traditional community journalism infrastructure in the U.S.


This study was a mixed-method content analysis of posts made to 13 location-based digital communities on the social link aggregation website Reddit. This study examined how users used those subreddits to share community-based public health information related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The content was examined along the lines of the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s identified community informational needs. Of those needs, one is the need for health-based information, divided up into these sub-categories: access to information about basic public health; the availability, quality, and cost of local health care; information on health-based programs and services; timely information in accessible language on the spread of disease and vaccination; and timely access to information about local health campaigns and intervention (Friedland et al., 2012).

This research follows in the footsteps of previous work suggesting Reddit’s geographically based subreddits contain the potential to alleviate some of the informational losses caused by the growing news desert problem (Riley & Cowart, 2021). As of April 2024, Reddit is listed by Similarweb as being the 10th-most-visited website by traffic in the United States (Top Websites Ranking, 2024). Previous research on Reddit found that the originally generated content posted to geographically based subreddits carries many of the same attributes as the eight community informational needs noted by the FCC (Friedland et al., 2012).

The potential was at its highest level for emergency or breaking-news based information, civic-based political information, and event-based community calendar information, all of which mimic the content that would otherwise exist in traditionally structured community newspapers and outlets (Riley & Cowart, 2021). However, not all of the eight community-based information needs were highly represented. Health-based information was one of the least-present informational areas identified in Riley & Cowart’s (2021) results, with only 19 coded posts out of a total sample of 600.

When health-based information was found in the data, it tended to take the shape of reminders of free health clinics or inquiries about recommendations for local physicians and dentists, but rarely did the results indicate a deeper presence of community health-based information. In terms of more traditional, centralized news production, there was little in the way of non-event based health information sharing. In terms of the special dynamics social media can bring to the table, there was very little health-based information-seeking behavior.

However, the results of that study carried a very serious limitation: the work was completed using data collected from a period of time that ended mere weeks before the coronavirus pandemic that would eventually kill more than 1 million Americans and disrupt the entire world entered the mass consciousness of most citizens in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not issued a public health declaration for municipalities to brace for community spread until Feb. 25, 2020 (CDC Media Telebriefing, 2020).

The World Health Organization had not declared COVID-19 an official pandemic until March 11 (WHO Director-General’s opening remarks, 2020). Although we now know the first death on U.S. soil from the virus happened on February 6, 2020, in Santa Clara, California (Allday & Gafni, 2020), that information was not made public until April 24, 2020, two months after data collection for Riley & Cowart’s (2021) study ended. At the time, the then-understood first death from the virus came on Feb. 28, 2020, in a nursing home in Washington State (Acevedo & Burke, 2020). This study explored Riley & Cowart’s (2021) serious limitation by focusing specifically on posts concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent control measures of masking, social distancing, and vaccinations to see if and how the subreddits could fulfill the public-health-based informational needs noted by the FCC (Friedland et al., 2012).

The results of this study indicate that many of the geographically based subreddits were used to equally share public health information, as well as request public health information. Requests for businesses and locations that followed masking and social-distancing protocols were the most-common information requested, and warnings about businesses and locations that did not follow masking and social-distancing protocols were the second-most volunteered form of information. The most common form of volunteered information was regular updates on the number of positive cases in the community; however that came with a compelling twist. The majority of those posts were made by “bots,” or computer scripts that would grab the case number information from the Georgia Department of Public Health and post it on the subreddit at a regular interval. That action, while simple, demonstrates that the subreddits began to figure out how to create their own decentralized forms of regularly updated community health information.

The results also demonstrated an active push-and-pull between users requesting information and volunteering information, which helps expand our understanding of the applicability of interactive components of Uses & Gratifications Theory, namely aspects of sociality as a guiding motivator for interaction in digital spaces.

As more community news outlets close, and as community news deserts in the United States continue to expand, it is important for scholarly research on community journalism to examine not just the impacts of community news closure, but also what is coming after to fill the void as humans continue to seek answers to questions related to public health – such as which local businesses are following safety protocols during a viral pandemic. Aside from the obvious benefit that proper information flow for public health information brings to a community, community reporting on outbreaks has been used by epidemiologists for decades to track and analyze community responses to disease spread (Branswell, 2018).


Literature Review

Uses & Gratification Theory

This study utilized Uses & Gratification Theory as its foundational theoretical framework. At its most basic, the audience-centered theory presupposes that people make active decisions in their mass-media consumption habits in order to satisfy specific internal needs (Blumler & Katz, 1974; Ruggiero, 2000).

Modern work examining the overlap of digital communities and Uses & Gratifications Theory has suggested that there are five active motivations specific to activity in digital spaces, including social media: Sociality and affection, the need to express negative feelings for catharsis, recognition of opinion or belief, entertainment, and cognitive needs (Leung, 2013; Menon, 2022). This study recognizes that the very nature of Reddit as a digital space means the way people interact with it as a platform will be fundamentally different from the ways they interact with a printed community newspaper, or even that community newspaper’s website, as there is a potentially a higher level for participatory interaction and two-way sharing of information. While there is the capacity for interaction with a community newspaper or community news website in the form of guest columns, letters-to-the-editor, and comment sections, the information flow is much more one sided. On Reddit, there is much more potential for what Lowrey (2012) referred to in community news as a “Listening and Changing Dimension,” (pg. 96, in Reader, 2012), wherein more voices are allowed to have a say. In turn, that increases the bond between the “community” and the people gathering and presenting the information. In the case of Reddit, those are the same groups, without a delineated difference between “community journalist” and “community member.”

There are also noted overlaps in the specific uses of community journalism and the gratification of those in the community, and some researchers have found that there are distinctly different patterns of consumption and assumptions of trustworthiness behind community news when it shifts into an online platform (Gulyas, O’Hara & Eilenberg, 2019). Echoing other work on Uses & Gratification Theory in digital spaces, Obot (2013) found there were consistencies of audience expectation within the gratification of independence in the reporting, quality of the reporting, and reach of the message.

Community Journalism

Even the scholars whose entire research agenda is “community journalism” have struggled at times to give it a simple, short working definition in a way that clearly differentiates it from “local journalism” or other vague possible titles for packaged information that relies heavily on proximity as the primary element of newsworthiness (Reader, 2012). Yet there is a sense of understanding about what the term actually means: news that has a “narrower closeness” (pg. 15) to the audience it serves. That closeness can come in the form of geographic closeness, as in a community newspaper publishing news articles about issues that are newsworthy to the smaller town, suburb or neighborhood from which it is located that might not be newsworthy to a larger, or neighboring, area.

The sense of closeness can also come in the form of familiarity, where a reader might recognize the reporter’s byline as someone who attends their church or social club, who they can comfortably approach to ask about the news. This study also recognizes that the closeness might also take the form of a connection that, instead of being geographic, is instead based on demographics, ideology, or general interest. From online forums for LGBTQ+ youths to printed newspapers for the Amish and Mennonites in the U.S., a considerable amount of research has found that the idea of “community” expands far beyond physical proximity (Davis, Elin & Reeher, 2002; Carey, 2012; Carey, 2016; Hawkins & Watson, 2017). However, this study progressed using physical proximity as its primary focus of “community.”

The world of community journalism has undergone a drastic change in the last two decades, despite still making up a large percentage of the overall volume of printed news in the U.S. (Reader, 2018). That change has been almost entirely economical (Abernathy, 2014; Abernathy, 2018; Lenz, 2020). Decreased circulation has caused a plummeting of advertising revenue rates and cash from lost subscriptions. The decrease in earnings has caused many community news outlets to close down, leaving many areas without consistent information-sharing outlets, which causes noticeable negative changes in a community.

News Deserts & Ghost Papers

News deserts, referred to by some researchers as media deserts, are geographic areas that do not contain regularly updated news from outlets dedicated to covering only that specific area (Ferrier, Sinha & Outrich, 2016; Abernathy, 2018). The term is used to refer to areas that once contained dedicated daily or weekly print newspapers, often with corresponding websites, that have since shuttered due to the impact of the Internet and social media on the traditional business model of community news (Abernathy, 2016). While news deserts are often conceptualized as dusty rural towns, large urban centers often have smaller designated neighborhoods with unique issues that are without regular coverage as well (Rafsky, 2020). Many times these news-desert neighborhoods within metropolitan areas carry a bigger population than the rural towns. Both metropolitan and rural news deserts carry a common issue where the news desert’s reach tends to sprawl further when the community in question is not predominantly white, not Christian, not within traditional sexual and gender norms, and at least middle class or lower (Ferrier, Sinha & Outrich, 2016).

Although news deserts are caused by economic issues, their impact reaches far beyond the pocketbook. Previous research on the impact of news deserts has found that expansion of news deserts correlates with a decline in civic information flow (Miller, 2018), a decline in voter turnout and engagement with local government (Watson & Cavanah, 2015; Abernathy, 2016), and higher levels of government inefficiency, likely caused by persistent lack of a watchdog (Gao, Lee & Murphy, 2018).

This study follows a slightly different path than the research studying the impact of news desert expansion. Instead of studying the negative impacts to people in a community and the community itself when the local community newspaper runs out of money and closes, this study is part of a growing body of work studying the continued information-seeking behavior of those people and communities. The assumption this work progresses with, based on established community journalism research, is that the closure of community news outlets is primarily driven by economic factors inherent in the collapse of subscription-based and advertisement-based revenues, not the publics’s aadeclining interest in community information . Experiments and analysis have demonstrated that people within a community still seek information about that community, but they are increasingly seeking the information on blogs, social media, and other digital spaces (Belair-Gagnon at al., 2019; Sukmono & Junaedi, 2019; Cardillo, 2021)

Another important note, specific to this study, is the decline in community news has also caused a decline in the available data for public health researchers and epidemiologists, who have traditionally relied on the output of information from community news outlets for studying disease outbreaks and providing communities with information needed to combat outbreaks (Branswell, 2018).

Television is often excluded from the news desert conversation because local television stations tend to be centralized in an urban area within a given market, where the majority of their reporters only extend journalistic coverage to smaller outlying communities in three predictable news frames: crime, disaster, and sports (Abernathy, 2016). Even though a television station’s coverage area might contain upwards of 20 counties in Georgia, for example, that station is less likely to send a reporter to the counties farthest away from the station’s home base unless there was a murder, a tornado, or a regional-level high-school sports championship. Thus, in terms of relief from the problems caused by news deserts, television lacks the capacity to fulfill most of the “closeness-based” community news obligations via its primary delivery system.

The increasingly common phenomenon of “ghost papers” has made the collection of analyzable news desert data difficult (Abernathy, 2020). “Ghost papers” are smaller community-based printed newspapers that, in the literal sense, still exist, but without the ability to perform core journalistic functions. They still publish at regular intervals, they still carry legally required governmental records and statements, and they still print community obituaries and birth announcements. What defines a ghost paper is that they no longer carry meaningful independent reporting by either professional or participatory community journalists. They often no longer pay for a regular staff of reporters, no longer regularly cover the social functions required of a community news outlet, and rarely if ever report on the actions of city councils, county commissions, school boards, or other political bodies. Because of the lack of journalistic personnel, they also tend to lack the manpower needed for proactive, anticipatory entrepreneurial reporting. Instead, ghost papers rely on unvetted press releases for most written copy. Ghost papers are the journalistic equivalent of empty calories: They exist, and you can read them, but you’re not getting much of anything educationally nutritious from them. Data from Abernathy (2020) suggests that the number of ghost papers in the U.S. is indeed increasing, caused by the same dynamics behind news deserts: A decline in the traditional revenue system of printed news.


This study focused on Reddit as a potential alleviation for the problem of news deserts. Reddit is best defined as a social link aggregation system, making it somewhat more complex than a social networking service like Facebook or a microblogging platform like Twitter. Instead of there being a single thing called “Reddit,” the website is composed of thousands of individual topics-based pages known as “subreddits.” Subreddits are denoted by the use of “/r/” in front of their names, as that is what appears in the URL. According to Reddit, there are about 140,000 “active” subreddits out of 1.2 million total subreddits, although Reddit has not been clear about how it classifies “active” (Marotti, 2018). At the time of data collection, web data aggregation site Similarweb ranked Reddit in the top-20 of most-visited websites on Earth and is the 9th-most-visited in the U.S. (Similarweb Top Websites Ranking, 2022). Subsequent data lists it at 10th-most-visited in the U.S. as of May 2024 (Similarweb Top Websites Ranking, 2024)

Reddit functions differently than many other forms of social media. Users can create profiles, but they are not as closely linked to one’s central identity in the same way users tend to approach more traditional social networking sites like Facebook. Users can make three kinds of “posts” within a subreddit: A self-post, which is like typing in text as a blog post; an image-post, where the user submits an uploaded photograph that automatically loads within Reddit’s page; and a link-post, where users submit URLs to websites outside of Reddit. All content, regardless of the kind of post, will then appear on the subreddit’s page with a set of arrows next to it: an orange one pointed upwards and a blue one pointed downward. All users can then “upvote” or “downvote” the content by clicking on either arrow to signal either agreement or disagreement. Although official “Reddiquette” dictates that the voting should be done along lines of usefulness, it is accepted among Reddit users that the voting is primarily done as a form of showcasing agreement and disagreement (Reddiquette, 2021). The ratio of upvotes-to-downvotes is used by Reddit, along with the number of comments, the number of hours since it was posted, and other undisclosed components in their proprietary system for ranking the order of content on a subreddit. Reddit has never fully released their ranking algorithm out of fear advertisers would learn how to manipulate it (Coldewey, 2016).

Reddit has been the subject of a considerable amount of mass communication research over the last decade, especially in the last five years. The research has taken many forms, from studying general hoaxes and misinformation spread (Achimescu & Chachev, 2020; Tasnik, Hossain & Mazumder, 2020; Mamie, Ribeiro & West, 2021) to more specifically examining the use of Reddit among radicalizers (Grover & Mark, 2019; Raemdonck, 2019) to studying the way information flows from traditional news into Reddit (Funk, 2018; Riley & Cowart, 2018).

Research Questions

Based on the existing literature that has examined the impact and importance of informational needs at the community level, the study progressed with the following two research questions.

 R1) How have geographically based digital communities shared information related to the COVID-19 pandemic?

R2) Does content posted to geographically based digital communities fulfill the FCC’s identified community-based health informational needs?


This study was conducted as a mixed-method content analysis. First, a sample was made using qualifying geographically based subreddits. This study started with the same list of subreddits used by Riley & Cowart (2021), but reexamination of the subreddits revealed that seven of those subreddits no longer qualified as “active,” in that they did not have at least one active post in the previous week as measured on July 1, 2022. Each subreddit was assigned a news desert score, which was determined using the number of dedicated news outlets within the given county as collected by Abernathy (2018).

For the purposes of this analysis, a lower number represents a harsher news desert climate, while a larger number would mean more news outlets in that county. This study recognizes that some do disagree with the metrics Abernathy (2018) used to determine the existence of what would qualify for local and community news (Williams, 2020). However, Abernathy’s (2018) data is the most robust available determination of news desert status, and as such, this study progressed with that as a noted limitation. Georgia-based subreddits were chosen because of Georgia’s unique dynamic within news desert data. Georgia contains more counties without a dedicated news outlet, either daily or weekly, print or digital, than all of the other regions of the U.S. combined. The subreddits included in the sample and their corresponding population data are below in Table 1.

Table 1

The subreddits selected, their subscriber numbers, and the real-life population of those geographic areas.

Subreddit: Real population of geographic area: Number of subreddit subscribers: News score: Number of posts in previous week as of July 1, 2022:
/r/Alpharetta 65,818 26,068 11 8
/r/Athens 127,315 28,004 2 54
/r/Augusta 202,081 17,582 3 16
/r/ColumbusGA 206,922 10,246 2 17
/r/DaltonGA 34,417 2,491 1 3
/r/Gwinnett* 942,627 30,583 1 13
/r/Macon 157,346 9,346 1 3
/r/Marietta 60,972 14,600 1 6
/r/Newnan 42,549 4,518 1 2
/r/RomeGA 37,713 2,773 1 2
/r/Roswell 92,833 8,093 11 2
/r/Savannah 147,780 30,445 3 4
/r/Valdosta 55,378 4,154 1 3

*NOTE: /r/Gwinnett is a subreddit created to represent Gwinnett County, Georgia, and as such is the only subreddit not representing a single municipality.  

It should be noted that there are geographic areas examined as a part of this study that might not immediately conjure up the idea of a “news desert.” Athens, Savannah, and Macon are all used in this sample, and are serviced by daily newspapers and are the centralized hub for TV news stations in their given markets. However, this study is looking at the capacity for digital spaces to act as a conduit for both information-sharing and information-seeking behavior, and as such those places were included because they allow for comparison of those behaviors. This also allows for examination of user-created information that is entirely bypassing the traditional community journalism infrastructure, even in places that still have a functioning form of traditional, centralized news media.

Another important note is the exclusion of /r/Atlanta, which is the subreddit for the entire Atlanta metropolitan area. While existing research on community journalism does recognize that community news needs to exist within sub-areas of larger metros, the rules of the /r/Atlanta subreddit indicate it is to be used for information for the entire metropolitan area, and as such causes an overlap one level above the “community” level of news and more into the “local” level of news. As such, it does not make epistemological sense to include /r/Atlanta within the sample. There are no comparative sub-areas within any of the three larger cities of Athens, Savannah and Macon in the same way there are for Atlanta.

After the subreddit list was created, the study progressed by searching four key informational groupings using the internal search system in each subreddit. First was the disease itself, using the terms “coronavirus” and “COVID-19”; then were three earlier prevention elements of “social distancing,” “masks” or “mask mandate”; and finally the late prevention elements of  “vaccine” or “vaccination.”  After searching for those key terms, all results were screen-captured and saved for further analysis on July 1, 2022, making the effective date range of the sample January 1, 2020 to July 1, 2022. Results that matched the key terms but were irrelevant to the framework of community-based public health information were discarded. An example of an irrelevant post would be someone posting “I haven’t had good Thai food since before the COVID-19 mess, where is the best place to get a bowl of take-out curry around here?” COVID-19 is not the primary topic of the information-seeking request, nor is it a public-health-based request at all. However, if someone asked for a recommendation for a Thai restaurant that was following masking and social distancing protocols, that would be saved and analyzed, as public health is a part of the information-seeking request. Also, results before January 2020 were discarded, as they were not about the pandemic, despite the fact that the pandemic began in late 2019 in other parts of the world. Results prior to January 2020 contained no information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

A general, grounded codebook was developed using the FCC’s (Friedland et al., 2012) community informational needs, focusing just on the health-based sub-needs. The options for primary frames based on the Friedland et al. (2012) work were: access to information about basic public health; the availability, quality, and cost of local health care; information on health-based programs, and services; timely information in accessible language on the spread of disease and vaccination; and timely access to information about local health campaigns and intervention.

Posts were then read and analyzed for common phrasing, common structure, and common informational framing to determine if they fit within any of those health-based informational categories, with the final determination made by the coder. The initial sorting of the content was solely looking for if the information provided in the post met any of the criteria listed by Friedland et al. (2012).

After the primary informational frame was determined, posts were then re-read by the coder to determine if there were deeper patterns at play in the way information was being posted, where two differences emerged. If a Reddit user was seeking information from the other users of the subreddit, that was coded “Asking.” If the Reddit user was posting information for others to have, that was “Volunteering.” Posts that contained pandemic-related information, but not in a way that would qualify as health information, were saved and re-analyzed into their own subframes of information flow. That initial grouping allowed for deeper analysis into patterns, and possible intent, of both the information-sharing and information-seeking behaviors.

The study was completed using a single coder; however intercoder reliability was assessed using the study’s primary coder and one other independently trained coder. A 10% chunk of the sample, or about 60 posts, were independently coded for intercoder reliability tests, which were performed using ReCal2. Because of the more grounded, thematic-based approach to coding, simple percent agreement tests were used with an 80% threshold. All coded options passed with at least 86% as the lowest percent agreement.


Three strata of activeness commonality appeared in the volume of COVID-related public health information posted to the subreddits. The top strata included /r/Savannah with 168 total posts, followed by /r/Athens at 125 and /r/Augusta at 116. Those three were the only subreddits with posts in the triple-digit range. Below that was a second strata of /r/Gwinnett with 85, /r/ColumbusGA with 42, /r/Roswell with 38, /r/Alpharetta with 24, and /r/Marietta with 19. The lowest-volume strata included /r/Macon with nine, /r/RomeGA with eight, /r/Valdosta with five, and /r/DaltonGA and /r/Newnan with one post each. That added up to a total sample of 641 posts about COVID-19 in the selected subreddits from the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020 until July 2022. Posts within that sample were not subsampled – all qualifying posts that were collected were included for analysis. The breakdown of posts compared to news desert score can be seen below in Table 2.

Table 2

The frequency of number of posts in the sample from each subreddit compared to the news desert score.

Subreddit Number of qualifying posts News desert score
/r/Savannah 168 3
/r/Athens 125 2
/r/Augusta 116 3
/r/Gwinnett 85 1
/r/ColumbusGA 42 2
/r/Roswell 38 11
/r/Alpharetta 24 11
/r/Marietta 19 1
/r/Macon 9 1
/r/RomeGA 8 1
/r/Valdosta 5 1
/r/DaltonGA 1 1
/r/Newnan 1 1
Total 641

Four distinct top-level groupings appeared within the information flow of the interactions of content within the thematic-based frame coding. The first will be referred to as “Asking.” These were public-health-based questions asked by a user to the rest of the users in the subreddit about one or multiple issues involving the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 641 total coded posts, 189 were coded as “Asking”. The second will be referred to as “Volunteering.” These were pieces of public health-based information posted by a user for the apparent good of everyone else. Of the 641 total coded posts, 190 were coded as “Volunteering.” Both the Asking and the Volunteering categories of content almost entirely took the form of self-posts, which are the text-based blog–style posts, instead of posting photos or outside hyperlinks. The “Asking” and “Volunteering” content were all organically or semi-organically produced, meaning they were not direct hyperlinks to content from existing news outlets. That organic and semi-organic content represents the capacity for these subreddits to act as a supplement for decreases in community-level coverage and will be explored further later in this study.

The third grouping was content that led to an article or video from an existing news outlet. Of the 641 total coded posts, 141 were coded as “Linking.” Of those 141, 125 were links to basic news articles, video packages, or podcasts that included information about COVID-19, although many of those aligned with political arguments and fights over safety policy. Sixteen of the 141 were links to feature stories, with the most-common form of feature story being a personality profile of a prominent local figure who had died from the virus. In all, this whole grouping was almost exclusively news articles from the websites of local and regional newspapers, state-wide news outlets, or local TV stations. A few upstart digital-based community news outlets were represented in the sample, and although those do indicate another path for alleviating the problems caused by the collapse of community journalism in the U.S., they are not within the scope of this study’s analysis.

The fourth grouping was organic content, similar in nature to the “Asking” and “Volunteering” groups, but about issues that were only tangentially related to COVID-19. This group was coded as “Discussing.” These were points of conversation that involved COVID-19 and prevention methods but were not explicitly about public health. There were 121 posts in this grouping. Unlike the “Asking” and “Volunteering” groups, which were almost entirely self-posts, the “Discussing” group was a mixture of self-posts and image-posts, although there were still very few hyperlinks sending the reader away from Reddit.

A breakdown of the frequencies of the four top-level groupings can be seen below in Table 3.

Table 3

Frequencies of the top-level groupings found across the geographically based subreddits.

Grouping Number of posts
Volunteering information 190
Asking for information 189
Linking to information 141
Discussing information 121
Total 641

After the sample was sorted into the four basic categories, the content was then reexamined using thematic-based analysis to discover information-flow patterns within both the “Asking” and “Volunteering” sub-groupings. This looked for common frames, common tone, and common structure in the volunteering process.


Of the 190 posts coded as organic forms of “Volunteering,” the most-common category of information was posts volunteering how many positive cases were in the community. However, this comes with a bit of a caveat. The majority of those posts were automatically generated by a computer script. They were text-posts, so they were not direct hyperlinks, but the text posts tended to include links back to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website that contained the official report of cases. They tended to be set to update once per-week on a regular interval of some . The language used was the same each time, indicating a template creation. The creators of those auto-posting computer scripts either included language in the posts themselves that indicated they were created by a bot, they were posted by accounts with “Bot” in the name, or the creator of the account, using a separate account, would clarify they had made the account to automatically post updates. The use of bots does not appear to be deceptive, and commentors were often thankful that someone went to the trouble to make something to keep the community updated.

Some of the automatic posts gathered community sources, and some had custom-created content. For example, for six months in 2021, a member of /r/Augusta posted the weekly podcast-style update on the number of cases in the area. The update podcasts were made by medical students at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, not the Reddit account using a script to automatically post the content to Reddit. That user also updated the safety protocols based on the ever-changing CDC guidance and included community assistance information. An example can be seen below in Figure 1:

A screenshot of an automatically generated COVID-19 update post made to /r/Augusta

Some went even further. In /r/Savannah, the main active moderator of the subreddit posted hand-curated weekly updates for the first eight months of the pandemic in 2020. The updates, nicknamed “Megathreads,” included an updated count of cases, a list of resources, news updates, school, churches, and business closure updates. An example of that can be seen below in Figure 2:

Figure 2

A screenshot of a hand-curated COVID-19 “Megathread” posted to /r/Savannah

Either automatically generated or hand-curated, the existence of these posts shows a sense of participatory entrepreneurship among the members of the community-based subreddits. Even the “bots” and the computer scripts that manage them had to be created by someone with coding skills, and instead of linking to established news outlets, they often linked directly to the Georgia Department of Public Health. In the most literal sense, this was members of a community creating their own micro version of a regular news publication in a way that mimics small hyperlocal news production.

After the semi-automatically posted updates, the second-most-common grouping of “Volunteered” information was 25 posts volunteering that people in a certain place or area were not adhering to calls to socially distance and not wearing masks. Essentially, these were posts that intended to warn others who tried to follow COVID-19 safety protocols that these were not safe locations. There were 10 different sub-groupings of these kinds of posts: eight warnings about specific restaurants, seven warnings about general areas of town, such as “downtown” or “midtown,” that did not mention any specific business, two warnings about bars or clubs, two warnings about doctors’ offices wherein the doctors and nurses had claimed they didn’t believe COVID-19 was real, and one warning each about a shopping mall, a mechanic’s shop, a catering business, a hardware store, and a grocery store. There was one post specifically warning that management at Plant Votgle, a nuclear power plant in Waynesboro, Georgia, was not requiring employees to wear masks and socially distance. It can be seen below in Figure 3:

Figure 3

A screenshot of a volunteered warning posted to /r/Augusta

After warnings about specific businesses or locations, the next-most-common form of “Volunteered” information was 23 posts about vaccines. These posts did not have any sub-groups, and were entirely people posting the locations, times, dates, and availability of vaccine distribution. Next, 23 posts volunteered information about changes in protocol in a given community, broken down into 10 sub-groups. Six of those posts volunteered changes in public school protocols, and six volunteered general changes in indoor masking protocols. Two each were about changes in stay-at-home orders, general public policy, and canceled community events. One each were about emergency government meetings that had been called to discuss changes in protocol, about changes in the community’s Animal Control office, about a new smartphone app to track changes in protocol, about policies at the local public pool, and about changes in the state’s legal liability rules for COVID in private businesses.

The next most-common form of “Volunteering” was people posting warnings that they had heard about businesses and workplaces having positive cases but keeping them hidden. The types of places being warned about were quite varied: three for specific restaurants, two for USPS post offices, two for specific public schools, and one each for a grocery store, a coffee shop, an OBGYN, the corporate offices for the insurance company AFLAC, and the Marietta police department.

From there, there were nine posts that volunteered information on testing. Five were general postings of the date and times testing would be available, two specified drive-in options one volunteered a service that could do virtual testing, and one was warning of the overall business of mass-testing sites.

As almost an inverse of the content that was warning people of places in the community not following safety protocols, eight posts volunteered information about, and often praising, community businesses that were enforcing masking and social-distancing protocols. Two posts were about local health clinics that were strictly enforcing masking protocols as well as organized outdoor activities, with the two posts, for example, praising Athens for having an outdoor kickball league after the CDC indicated that outdoor activities were considerably safer than being indoors. From there, there was one post each praising a grocery store, a concert venue, a restaurant, and a bookstore.

The number of “Volunteer” posts slimmed down after that. Three posts told people about their own experiences being ill with the disease, three posts volunteered which locations were strictly enforcing vaccine mandates, three posts told people where masks were available, and one post each: explained the scientific data about efficiency of different kinds of masks, who qualified for PPP loans, noted where general aid was available, and informed people a popular local business had closed.


Of the 189 posts coded as organic forms of “Asking,” the most-common category of question was people asking for recommendations for local businesses that followed proper safety protocols, with 70 posts. Masking enforcement was the most-commonly-desired form of safety protocol identified in the language of the request. Although some requests were specific about places following social distancing, there were no requests for businesses mandating vaccines or checking for positive vaccine status. An example of this kind of request can be seen below in Figure 4:

Figure 4

A screenshot of a request for a local business following safety protocols posted to /r/Savannah

Within the 60 posts requesting recommendations for businesses that are following safety protocols, 14 requested restaurants, 10 requested organized outdoor activities like adult kickball or disc golf, eight requested information about a general town area, such as asking “are people in downtown Savannah masking?” and eight requested hair salons, nail salons, or barber shops. From there, six requested gyms, three requested coffee shops, and three requested concert venues. Two each requested gun ranges, a primary care physician, grocery stores, and artist/craft workspaces, while one each requested a movie theater, a church, a tax accountant, a massage therapist, a manicure/pedicure salon, a haunted historical tour, a chiropractor, an auto mechanic, and a farmer’s market. These requests make up an important part of this study’s analysis – it represents something that goes above and beyond what centralized, traditional community news can accomplish. It is largely out of the realm of manpower for even a robust community news outlet to keep track of every possible business in every possible sector in their entire coverage area to see if they are following COVID-19 protocols. Because the subreddits can act as decentralized, participatory information hubs, they effectively act as an on-demand community information service.

While asking for businesses following protocols may have been the biggest chunk of information requests, they were not the only requests. Past that, the next-biggest sub-grouping in the “Asking” category was a collection of 26 posts asking about where to find COVID-19 tests in their community. Fifteen of those requests were general requests for testing times and locations, and all were answered in the comments by members. Chronologically, these requests were not common in the early days of the pandemic. Instead they became more popular after the vaccines became available, in spring and summer 2021. That is when more travel opened up, as well as some employers choosing to enforce rest results for those not willing to get the vaccine. Either way, there was a flood of posts asking about rapid tests for employment or travel. An example of that can be seen below in Figure 5:

Figure 5

A screenshot of a request for rapid-results tests posted to /r/Athens

There were then more-specific requests for testing: 11 posts specifically requested rapid tests, usually in the name of travel or work, four posts specifically requested free tests, three posts specifically requested at-home tests, three posts specifically requested drive-through testing, and one post specifically requested testing sites that were open late because they said they worked the third shift at a paper mill. There was one outlier in this subgrouping, which was four posts asking if other people had experienced delays in results from specific testing centers. The researchers of this study ponder if perhaps some of those individuals fell victim to the many scam testing sites that were rampant in Georgia in 2021 (Yu, 2022).

Next in the “Asking” sub-group by volume was requests for the status of general COVID-related public health policies, of which there were 18 total requests. Of those, eight asked about the current status of mask mandates, four asked about a general sense of policy unrelated to any single informational component, and two each asked about what the enforcement of policy is like, in the sense of if people are issued tickets, fines, etc., and what the current general policy was in public schools. One each asked about society in general “opening back up” and in general about vaccine policy. Many of these requests carried a tone of hopelessness that little clear guidance was coming from above, and many stressed the importance of community in the face of peril. An example of this can be seen below in Figure 6:

Figure 6:

A screenshot of a request for policy guidance posted to /r/Savannah

The next sub-group was 15 requests about vaccine information that broke down into various forms of specificity. Ten of the posts asked, generally, about the vaccine. Most of those general requests were questions about when others thought vaccines would be approved and when they would be available in their community. From there, seven were specifically requests about where vaccines were available in the early days of distribution. Earlier date requests tended to ask about large-scale drive-up and drive-through vaccination sites, and later dates tend to ask about which pharmacies had appointment availability. Two posts specifically asked about what the wait times were for mass-vaccination centers because they were trying to time their work lunch break correctly, and one-each was asking about where the 1-shot Johson & Johnson vaccine was available, asking if it was OK to skip the second dose of the two-shot vaccines, and asking which brand vaccine others planned on getting.

There were two other groups in the double-digits within the content coded “Asking”. There were 10 posts, all from the winter of 2020-2021, asking what the order of vaccine availability currently was. Most of those inquiries were people stating their situation, such as a pre-existing condition or a high-risk job, and asking if that means they are able to sign up for vaccination. There were no sub-groups within that request. The other 10 posts asked about masks. Seven of those were general inquiries about who had masks for sale in the given community area, with a breakdown into sub-groups that included one post specifically asking about child-sized cloth masks, one post asking specifically about which stores sold KN95 masks, and one post was from someone asking if anyone in the community could make custom masks with sports logos on them.

From there, the “Asking” group dips down into single–digit subgroups. There were nine posts generally requesting that people please consider wearing masks in public for the sake of public health in their community. These posts ranged across seven different subreddits. Eight posts asked how many official positive cases there were in the given community. Six total posts asked about other peoples’ vaccine status, with two of those being specific requests for others to share their side-effect experience. From there, three posts asked specifically about the status of community Halloween Trick-or-Treating plans. All three were posted in October 2020, before vaccine availability, and all three were posted in different subreddits, indicating that this was somewhat of a common community concern in late 2020.

Perhaps the eeriest set of “Asking” posts were the three posted in January and February 2020 in /r/Augusta, /r/Athens, and /r/Savannah asking when people in the given community thought that area would get their first case. At no point did anyone in the comments of those posts indicate they thought things would turn out OK – instead, there was an early assumption that COVID-19 was going to spread quickly through their community and there would be no stopping it. The tone of these posts were very much in the sense of “When will this problem get here?” There were three posts, all in June and July 2020, that asked about the general status of “businesses” being open. These were not requests specific to single named businesses, and instead were general requests in the frame of “Are things, in general, still open downtown?”

Two posts asked if anyone knew of a job that would be COVID-19 safe that was hiring in late 2020. And there were one each of the following “Asks”: One inquiry into the accuracy of COVID-19 at-home tests, one post asking if people in the community had experienced stigma from choosing to wear a mask in public, one post asking if the Masters Tournament in Augusta would be canceled, one post asking generally about the science of what makes the COVID-19 virus different from other viruses, and one post generally asking if others in the community thought things would be canceled because of the big summer wave of positive cases in 2021.


The 141 posts coded “Linking” were hyperlinks back to existing news coverage. The biggest single sub-group was people posting links to articles about changes in masking protocols with 28 posts. From there, there were 14 posts about case surges during the late summer and early fall of 2020. There were also 16 feature articles, with seven of those on prominent local deaths from the disease. The rest of the “Linking” posts were a smattering of issues, many political. But because they linked directly to content from established news companies, they were not deeply analyzed for topic, as they do not represent the capacity for these geographically based subreddits to produce their own news.


The final group was the “Discussing” group, which were the 121 posts that contained some element of public health information but were not purely a “Volunteer” of information nor a requested “Ask” of information. These tended to be framed in ways that spurred on discussion, or in many cases, argument.

The most-common type of “Discussing” post was 43 posts, common across all of the subreddits in the sample, that were noted as “Arguments, Rants, or Expressions of Anger.” All but one of these expressed some kind of anger toward people shirking public health guidelines. An example of this can be seen below in Figure 7

Figure 7

A screenshot of an Argument, Rant or Expression of Anger posted to /r/Gwinnett

Included in those 43 posts were photos of people lining up to get into clubs in /r/Athens, rants about how people complaining about masks were weak and selfish in /r/Augusta, and overall admonishing people who were not following protocols for elongating the crisis across all the subreddits. These posts were often filled with expletives and tended to have deep comment sections where people argued about the effectiveness of masks and various other virus-related points of contention. No other kind of “Discussion” post came close to those numbers, with the next-most-popular being eight posts volunteering non-medical services. That is an interesting juxtaposition compared to the bitter and argumentative rant posts. These posts, on the inverse, offered to help out others in their community, with such services offered as lawn mowing, grocery delivery, transportation to-and-from vaccination appointments, and house cleaning. Beyond that, the remaining 70 posts were a collection of 16 other sub-topics, none of which were coded at more than three each, and included excitement about vaccines being available, calls to boycott local businesses not following safety protocols, complaints about the University System of Georgia not enforcing masks on campuses, encouraging safety during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, and many other topics. However very few consistent commonalities in this group beyond rants and volunteering. 


R1) How have geographically based digital communities used their platform as a part of the flow of information related to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The results of this study indicate that geographically based subreddits used their digital spaces to share, and trade, necessary information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Users were just as likely to request information as they were to volunteer it, which shows a level of balance within the information flow. If there had been a huge amount of “Asking” behavior and a considerably lower amount of “Volunteering” behavior, then perhaps the assumption would be that these subreddits represent information loss from community-based outlets. But instead, there is almost a paired back-and-forth to the information flow. The thing most asked for was recommendations of businesses and services that followed COVID-19 protocols. The most-volunteered information, after the often bot-created case number updates and large “Megathreads,” was people posting which businesses and services were not following protocol. That represents an appearance of some dynamics of Uses & Gratification Theory, where sociality is one of the guiding motivators for interaction in digital spaces. Or, seen another way, Lowrey (2012) referred to community news as having a “Listening and Changing Dimension,” (pg. 96, in Reader, 2012), that helps define community journalism as a separate utility from other forms of journalism. If one combines the notion of sociality as a driving force of Uses & Gratification Theory in the digital age with the idea that community news has a higher rate of interaction via the “Listening and Changing Dimension,” it becomes a compelling argument that the further growth of digital spaces as community news hubs – be they Facebook pages, NextDoor accounts, or subreddits – will be much more participatory and interactive. The push-and-pull of question asking and information volunteering demonstrates that.

It also represents the use of geographically based subreddits to fulfill an informational need in a way that a traditional community news outlet likely could not. It would not be feasible for a community news outlet to know at any given time which of all of the businesses in their area that are following protocols and which are not. They could possibly run some positive stories on a few of the businesses that are , and perhaps some negative stories about businesses that are not, but reporters cannot be in all places at all times, whereas crowdsourced information in a community essentially turns anyone who might have the answer into a reporter.

R2) Does content posted to geographically based digital communities fulfill the FCC’s identified community-based health informational needs?

This study finds that all of the informational needs identified by Friedland et al. (2012) are present in some capacity within the sample, but some of the sub-groups are more present than others. There are five health information sub-components. The first is “access to information about basic public health.” There were components of the qualitatively assessed data that represent a fulfillment of that need, albeit none of them represented an overwhelming majority. Perhaps because this study was coding just for information related to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the health information was, in some way, about COVID-19, meaning that the notion of “basic public health” was somewhat out-of-step with the scope of the study. There were basic public health questions asked, however, but there was no dominant question or dominant form of volunteered information. Information was requested and volunteered about the efficiency of masks, the danger level of various variants, what positive cases felt like, and early on, predictions as to when their area would receive its first positive case.

The second is “the availability, quality, and cost of local health care.” This was somewhat fulfilled, especially in the “Asking” behavior. This could be seen monetarily, where people asked about where to get free masks and free tests. It could also be seen from a quality perspective from people asking for recommendations for doctors’ offices, walk-in-clinics, OBGYNs and dentists who did not think the COVID-19 pandemic was a hoax. It should be noted that “Asking” represents only one side of the equation, and this study was not coding the comments under the “Asking” posts; however, informal observations note that the comments did often contain answers when people asked questions.

The third is “information on health-based programs and services.” This showed a clear fulfillment in the form of both asking and volunteering information about many posts containing information about drive-through testing, rapid testing, and mask give-outs.

The fourth is “timely information in accessible language on the spread of disease and vaccination.” This was perhaps one of the most-fulfilled informational needs. The automatically updating posts with the number of positive cases, the moderator-curated “Megathreads,” as well as the flood of requests for businesses following protocols and volunteered information about which businesses treated safety seriously acted as a kind of warning system.

The fifth is “timely access to information about local health campaigns and intervention.” While this was fulfilled, the researchers must note that this category was more fulfilled by the posts that linked back to news articles from established news outlets instead of organically developed community information.


The findings of this study indicate a similar conclusion to Riley & Cowart’s (2021) work examining geographically based community subreddits. Many, but not all, of the community informational needs noted by Friedland et al. (2012) and the FCC can be seen on geographically based subreddits in the back-and-forth flow of people asking questions and others volunteering information based on public health. In some cases, like volunteering when and where mass vaccination centers were and when they would open, the information mimics what might be available on a traditional community journalism outlet. But in other cases, like requests for custom-made masks or requests for which businesses followed protocol, those are informational dynamics separate from what a traditional community journalism outlet can usually provide. The 25 posts of people volunteering that their place of work is covering up positive cases, like was the case in the findings with restaurants, mechanics shops, and a nuclear power plant, represent an interesting removal of the middle-man from investigative reporting.

This study did have noted limitations that should be addressed with further research. The study used a sample that was based out of a single U.S. state. A larger geographically varied sample could help find both national trends and national differences. The study was also limited in its lack of ability to check for the accuracy of the information being posted. Someone posting a warning to avoid a local business that was not following COVID safety protocols was taken at face value in this study’s coding system. It could have very well been that the person posting the warning was angry at the business for other reasons and was lying on the Internet.

Combined with Riley & Cowart’s (2021) work looking more generally at Reddit and the FCC informational needs, the results of this study speak to many different options for future research. One would be to include analysis of the back-and-forth dynamic of Volunteering and Asking content. When people post community-based questions to a geographically based subreddit, how often are the questions being answered with correct, valid information?

Perhaps the most obvious direction for future research must embrace our core understanding of Uses & Gratification Theory by surveying the users of geographically based subreddits to see if they feel they are receiving a “well-rounded diet” of information from the subreddits, if they have ever had any real-world impacts based on information they received from the subreddits, and comparing their usage of the subreddits to their interaction with traditional centralized community news content.

These geographically based digital spaces need to be better understood. As the traditional infrastructure of community journalism in the U.S. continues to crumble, it is becoming desperately important for community journalism researchers to understand the places that lost audiences go to for community information. It is not enough to only discover the impact that the closure of traditional community media causes. We must also know what is taking its place and how it works and how people use it, even if those things taking their place are not gate-kept or centralized.


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About the Author

Jeffrey K. Riley is an associate professor of multimedia journalism at Georgia Southern University.

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Community Journalism Journal Volume 10

The Suburban News Desert: Where Communities of Color Are Starved for Critical Information Amid Crime-centered News Coverage


Rarely has news deserts research examined a suburban region teeming with media outlets, and little attention has been paid to the neighborhoods of color within such an area. Through surveys and interviews with over three dozen community-based organization leaders and journalists, as well as a six-month, community-by-community audit of the coverage provided by 14 media outlets, this study aimed to determine whether one can reside in a news desert in densely populated Nassau County, NY, a suburb of New York City that is reported on by a wide range of large and small media outlets. In particular, we focused on the predominately Black and Brown neighborhoods therein. The majority of community-based organization leaders within these six areas contended the news media focused heavily or nearly exclusively on crime within their neighborhoods, and those perceptions were largely borne out in the quantitative data, except in the case of the two community newspapers, the Franklin Square-Elmont Herald and the Freeport Herald.


The news deserts crisis caused by a decline in local reporting has been documented across the United States for more than a decade: a measurable deterioration in civic dialogue as a result of community and regional newspapers and other media outlets closing (Conte, 2022; Stites, 2018). The issue is exacerbated by a growing distrust of the mass media by a wide cross section of the population, particularly owing to the increasing polarization of the national news outlets (Garimella et al., 2021; Jurkowitz et al., 2020). The news desert, though seemingly a relatively new concept, has been a phenomenon in communities of color across the US since before the country was founded, often leaving them bereft of the essential information they need to make informed decisions and choices in this democratic society, even in regions with a multitude of robust media outlets (Conte, 2022; Gandy, 1997; González & Torres, 2011; Nelson, 1999).

One such region is Nassau County, NY, the nation’s 10th wealthiest county 33 miles due east of Midtown Manhattan, the center of the largest media market in the US, with 12% of the country’s newsroom employees (Baker, 2021; Grieco, 2019). This study will show that even in a suburban haven rich with a variety of news organizations, there exist news deserts spanning the majority of the six predominately Black and Brown communities that form what is known as Nassau’s “corridor of color”: Elmont (population 36,245, US Census Bureau, 2020), Freeport Village (44,199), Hempstead Village (58,734), Roosevelt (16,522), Uniondale (32,621), and Westbury Village (15,809).

If there are news deserts in largely Black and Brown neighborhoods in close proximity to what is often called the “media capital of the world,” New York City, then there are likely similar news information vacuums in communities of color across the US. Addressing whether suburban Black and Brown neighborhoods can be considered news deserts is crucial, in particular, because a majority of Americans—53%—live in suburbs, while 26% reside in cities and 21% in rural small towns (Kolko & Bucholtz, 2018). At the same time, suburbs are often misunderstood. They are widely seen as wealthy and majority-White, likely because they were historically so. Today, however, suburbs fully reflect America’s growing diversity. In 1990, approximately 20% of suburbanites were people of color. By 2000, that figure had risen to 30%. Today, it stands at 45% across the nation (Frey, 2022). In Nassau, people of color comprised 44.2% of the population as of June 1, 2022 (Census Bureau).

With a population today of approximately 1.39 million residents (Census Bureau, 2020), Nassau grew rapidly from a largely rural region, composed of small downtowns and farms, to crowded suburbia in the post-World War II era, with two cities, 64 incorporated villages, and 100 unincorporated areas that are divided among three towns—Hempstead, North Hempstead, and Oyster Bay (Nassau County website, Cities, Towns & Villages section). From the late 1940s through the ’60s, segregation was built into the economic model for development in this majority-White county, the specter of which lingers today.

Nassau is ranked the fourth most segregated county among 62 in New York State (Winslow, 2019), with segregation forming the basis for its development model dating back to a restrictive covenant preventing Black people and other underrepresented groups from moving into America’s first planned suburban community, Levittown, at its founding in 1947 (Lambert, 1997; Winslow, 2019). Levittown, which remains a majority-White community today (Census Bureau, 2020), may only be a 10- or 20-minute drive from the neighborhoods in this study, but racially and socio-economically, these areas have remained divided for decades (Winslow, 2019). Indeed, Nassau’s decades-long history of segregation looms large over Long Island, including, this study found, in the inordinate levels of crime reporting that the six studied communities received compared with other critical issues. In a six-month news audit that we conducted, we found issues-oriented coverage was limited or nearly absent, depending on the neighborhood.

The two notable exceptions were Elmont and Freeport, each with a working community newspaper that provided coverage across a wider range of issues for residents. Absent such hyperlocal outlets to offer counternarratives that provide context, news consumers may be led to believe neighborhoods of color such as these are trapped in a continuous cycle of violence, with few, if any, redeeming qualities, perpetuating a biased public perception of them while leaving them starved for vital issue-oriented and events-based reporting.

Grounded theory (Chun Tie et al., 2019; Glaser & Strauss, 1999) formed the basis for our research methodology in this study. We began by collecting qualitative data to assess how leaders in the six studied communities perceived the news media’s coverage of their neighborhoods through surveys and focus groups. Then, we sought data on the actual coverage that could be systematically collected, analyzed, and compared (Chun Tie et al., 2019; Glaser & Strauss, 1999) in order to ground the CBO leaders’ assertions and arguments in hard evidence. As well, we sought the thoughts and opinions of more than a dozen journalists. Through our study, we shall show how the news desert concept can be utilized to frame and understand media exclusivity in communities of color and the mainstream news media’s centuries-old stereotyping of Black and Brown people.

Literature Review

For this study, we took a community-by-community approach to studying the six news ecosystems outlined above. In our quantitative research in particular, we noted a clear difference in how mainstream regional news organizations and community media at the grassroots level approach coverage, with larger media centered, by and large, on crime, and the handful of community-based newspapers focused more on the everyday lives of residents.

Efforts to define community journalism date back at least to 1952, with publication of The Community Press in an Urban Setting, by sociologist Morris Janowitz (Janowitz, 1952; Robinson, 2014), who employed a number of the same research methods as this study, developing neighborhood profiles, interviewing residents and journalists, and analyzing the contents of publications. The community press, Janowitz hypothesized, maintains “local consensus through the emphasis on common values,” linking community leaders and readers through editors and reporters (Hatcher & Reader, 2012, p. 27; Janowitz, 1952). Or, as Conte (2022) wrote, in chronicling “the mundane, [hyperlocal media outlets] knit community together through the moments that otherwise might be overlooked” (pp. 17-18).

By contrast, national and larger regional news outlets many times must focus on the “big” stories owing to the size and scope of their coverage areas. As Conte (2022) wrote:

“Most often, [these stories] tend to be murders, other truly heinous crimes, and high-profile incidents such as house fires. None of these bigger outlets have enough journalists to cover the small stories and the minutia of daily life, even though those are the events that make up the substance of any community” (p. 65).

Defining the news desert

The Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill defines a news desert as “a community, either rural or urban, with limited access to the sort of credible and comprehensive news and information that feeds democracy at the grassroots level” (Hussman School, n.d., para. 4). This definition does not include suburbs, though a report sponsored by the Hussman School, The Expanding News Desert, speaks of a growing “silence in the suburbs” caused by the closure of hundreds of suburban community weekly newspapers between 2004 and 2018 (Abernathy, 2018, p. 11).

To date, news deserts research has focused primarily on rural and urban communities that have lost their media outlets. Largely unanswered in the current literature is whether a suburban community with a wide range of media outlets to cover it could also be a news desert. This gap in the literature may be owing to a widely held belief that most suburbs are well-covered by news outlets because they primarily fall within the orbits of major metropolitan media markets with many outlets. As this study will show, a simple count of news organizations alone does not speak to the health of a local, or grassroots, media ecosystem, though. The coverage produced by news organizations must be examined through thematic, content, and textual analysis as well.

In March 2021, Impact Architects released a diagnostic framework to determine the health of local news and information ecosystems. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the Google News Initiative funded the research behind this new framework (Stonebraker & Green-Barber, 2021). The authors conducted qualitative research through surveys, focus groups, and listening sessions with three key groups: community members, journalists, and representatives of other information providers such as community organizations, libraries, and universities. “The health of a news and information ecosystem can’t be understood by the presence or absence of journalism organizations alone,” the framework developers argued (Stonebraker & Green-Barber, 2021, p. 10).

Their report outlined six key factors in determining the vitality of a news and information ecosystem:

  • Number of journalism organizations serving a community.
  • Types of media.
  • The news outlets’ business models.
  • The diversity of media, including the number of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) news organizations.
  • Collaboration among media companies.
  • Nonprofit funding available to the outlets.

In our study of news and communications deserts in Nassau County, we considered each of the above six metrics, conducting surveys, focus groups, and listening sessions with community organization leaders and journalists. To determine the health of a news ecosystem, however, the nature and quality of newspaper articles and TV and radio broadcasts about a community must also be examined through quantitative research to determine whether people’s information needs have been fulfilled and satisfied—and whether the news information distributed to the public ultimately encourages or discourages civic discourse and engagement, and/or distorts reality. Thus, we carried out a thematic news audit within the six studied communities over six months in 2022, the results of which demonstrated that news coverage primarily or nearly exclusively centered on crime and education in four of the six areas, with little to no reporting on other critical issues. Thus, we are calling these neighborhoods news deserts.

The term news desert entered the mainstream journalistic lexicon a little over a decade ago, after thousands of print journalists had been laid off and hundreds of newspapers had shut down operations starting in the early 2000s, leaving a steadily decreasing number of communities without media outlets of their own (Abernathy, 2018; Conte, 2022). Due in large part to the digital news revolution, coupled with a societal move toward social media, the past two decades have seen a sharp decline in print circulation at daily and weekly newspapers and thus advertising dollars, forcing the layoffs of more than 40,000 journalists from 2004 to 2022 (Abernathy, 2018; Claussen, 2020; Robinson, 2014; Waldman, 2022). During that same period, the US lost 2,500 newspapers (Simonetti, 2022).

The news desert was not, however, a new concept in communities of color, which for centuries were ignored and stereotyped by mainstream media organizations (Gandy, 1997; González & Torres 2011; Nelson, 1999), including, this study found, in Nassau County today to a large extent. For more than 250 years, the nation’s news media, regardless of political leanings, had remained central institutions of White America, according to González and Torres (2011). Native American, African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian American journalists were “systematically excluded” from newsrooms across the country through the 1970s, the two wrote (2011, p. 8). The lack of representation in newsrooms resulted in an “almost routine distortion of the lives and events of people of color by the press,” they emphasized (p. 15). For the roughly 204,000 residents of the six neighborhoods included in this study, little has changed since the ’70s, it appears.

News media representations of Black and Brown people

Overt racism may have largely disappeared from today’s media portrayals of people of color in the mainstream press, but many news organizations often ignore them and their issues while remaining focused, by and large, on crime coverage in their neighborhoods; as a result, news media many times fail to address the Critical Information Needs (CINS) of Black and Brown people (Keene & Padilla, 2013; Nishikawa et al., 2009; Wenzel & Crittenden, 2021).

At the same time, the media’s focus on crime in Black and Brown communities, we found in this study, can cause a clustering effect, whereby several outlets cover the most shocking criminal activity in these areas all at once, potentially leading the public to believe these communities are experiencing more crime than they do. This effect was described nearly 30 years ago by Sacco (1995), who noted that variations in the volume of crime coverage appeared unrelated to the actual number of crimes taking place within a given area. Crime statistics indicated that most crime was nonviolent three decades ago, but aggregated news media reports suggested otherwise, according to Sacco.

Gandy (1997) noted that continual coverage of crime in communities of color can give the wider public the impression that people of color, particularly Black people, are dangerous by nature. Gandy argued that the media tended to present people in strictly negative terms. The cumulative result of such coverage may be to reduce public social programs designed to support underrepresented and marginalized populations, according to the author, potentially exacerbating feelings of isolation and alienation in communities of color that are news deserts.

In fact, it appears the term news desert was popularized, at least in part, because of the dearth of original, quality reporting in and on communities of color. In an April 5, 2011, column for These Times Magazine, The Paradox of Our Media Age—And What to Do About It, Chicago-based writer Laura Washington described what she called the “communications desert.” In urban areas, most news decision-makers remained White, wrote Washington (2011), noting, “Reporters parachute into black and Latino neighborhoods to cover violent crime and community conflict” (para. 18).

Washington’s column helped thrust the term news desert into the fore (Conte, 2022). Shortly after its publication, Washington appeared beside Tom Stites, a media fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, at a conference at which Washington explained her concept. Stites then began pushing out the notion of the news desert, stating, “Elites and the affluent are awash in information designed to serve them, but everyday people, who often grapple with significantly different concerns, are hungry for credible information they need to make their best life and citizenship decisions” (Conte, 2022, p. 17).

The percentage of journalists of color in newsrooms has grown but remains well below the percentage of the population comprised by people of color. In 1982, journalists of color made up 3.9% of newsrooms; in 1992, 8.2%; and in 2013, 10.8% (Willnat et al., 2022). As of 2018, people of color comprised 40% of the US population, but 17% of American newsrooms (Arana, 2018). Four years later, the newsroom figure had inched up by one percentage point, to 18% (Willnat et al., 2022).

Johnston and Flamiano (2007) noted there was evidence, based on findings at four major daily newspapers, to suggest that a lack of newsroom diversity affects news coverage, with people of color underrepresented as sources for and subjects of stories. Since the early 2000s, at least some newspapers have apologized for how they covered Black communities in the past (Burke, 2022; Neason, 2021; Pinsky, 2023). In 2021, after the Black Lives Matter protests, The Kansas City Star, among a growing number of American dailies that have sought to atone, undertook an introspective examination of its past coverage. In the editorial The Truth in Black and White: An Apology from The KC Star, Martin Fannin, the outlet’s president and editor, remarked:

Reporters were frequently sickened by what they found — decades of coverage that depicted Black Kansas Citians as criminals living in a crime-laden world. They felt shame at what was missing: the achievements, aspirations and milestones of an entire population routinely overlooked, as if Black people were invisible (Fannin, 2020, para. 14).

Patterns of coverage in communities of color

Why journalists remain focused on crime within communities of color, even now in a post-George Floyd era, is an open question and a potential source of debate. Script theory, developed by psychologist Silvan Tomkins in the 1950s, may suggest at least a partial answer.

Conceptual scripts—set patterns of doing and of being within society that humans utilize daily—aid us in interpreting and defining our ever-changing world (Tomkins, 1987). A conceptual script can be thought of as a heuristic, or mental shortcut. The script comprises a set of familiar scenes, each of which begins with a stimulus (an event), which is followed by an affect (an outward expression of emotion that demonstrates motivation) and then a response, according to Tomkins.

Thomson (2016), who studied visual representations in the news, employed script theory to show how the photojournalists he was studying often relied on deeply entrenched scripts to frame their stories when packaging the news. Conceptual scripts enable journalists to produce stories quickly and efficiently on deadline, Thomson noted, but they can also lead journalists to fall back on historically scripted narratives about people of color, portraying them as collectively angry, for example, rather than seeking individual opinion from them and reporting nuance. The researcher further demonstrated that people of color are often overlooked or ignored by the news media.

Thomson called on photojournalists to engage on a deeper level with subjects to learn about them as people and present their stories fully. A number of Black protesters interviewed by Thomson following the mass protests for racial equality at the University of Missouri at Columbia in 2015 noted photojournalists had not sought their names during the rallies after photographing them, leaving them as nameless faces. Images of racial integration within the protests also were not shown. Media outlets “tend to exclude and marginalize” the positive traits of people of color while focusing on the negative, Thomson concluded (2016, p. 224).

As well, resource allocation appears to play a part in how and why majority-White communities are often better served by the media than are communities of color. A study on the Critical Information Needs of communities by (Napoli et al., 2016) in Newark, New Brunswick, and Morristown, New Jersey reported that Morristown, the wealthiest, least diverse of the areas, with a population of roughly 20,000, had 10 times the number of journalistic resources than did Newark, the lowest-income, most diverse area, with a population of more than 307,000 people (Napoli et al., 2016; Census Bureau, 2022). As a result, Morristown residents received 13 times more coverage than did their Newark counterparts (Napoli et al., 2016).

It is little wonder then that studies indicate news consumers of color, especially in lower-income areas, are less satisfied with media coverage than are residents of more affluent areas. Hamilton and Morgan (2018) argue, “Income inequality readily translates into information inequality in the United States . . . . Poor people get poor information, because income inequality generates information inequality” (p. 2832).

In short, implicit, deeply held biases that have remained embedded in mainstream journalists’ daily scripts for centuries, coupled with a lack of newsroom diversity and significantly fewer reporting resources dedicated to communities of color, often leave these areas as news deserts, or information vacuums that are filled by the easiest, simplest form of reporting—crime.

For this research project, we addressed these questions:

RQ1: How are the six largely Black and Brown communities at the center of Nassau County, NY, presented in news coverage?

RQ2: How do community leaders within these areas think and feel about news reporting on their neighborhoods and constituencies?

RQ3: Do the leaders’ perceptions of news coverage align with actual media reports?

RQ4: To what degree are the six communities excluded from the media, leaving them as potential news deserts, or information vacuums?


As shown in Table One here, each of the six studied communities falls below Nassau County’s US Census average for household income, which as of 2020 was $120,036. As shown in Figures Two and Three below, the populations of the six communities are largely Black and Hispanic.

Table 1

Average Household Income by Studied Community

Community Household Income
Hempstead Village $62,569
Freeport Village $81,958
Roosevelt $90,423
Westbury Village $101,671
Elmont $104,671
Uniondale $105,307

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Figure 1

Percentage of the Population, Black or African

Figure  2

Percentage of Population, Hispanic or Latino

In this three-phase, mixed-methods study, we first approached the question of whether critical local news information needs were being met through a qualitative lens, surveying and interviewing leaders of 21 community-based organizations (CBOs), along with a dozen editors and reporters. The study then layered on a quantitative review of the news information regarding each of the six studied communities. Data was analyzed sequentially, with results from the qualitative inquiry helping to inform the quantitative analysis. Lists of CBOs and news organizations were developed with the aid of library and newspaper directories and the annual Press Club of Long Island Media Guide. From there, key figures at the organizations were identified and invited by email and phone to take part in our research project.

Through triangulation of data—the surveys, interviews, and a news information audit—the health of each of the six media ecosystems could be gauged, and the influence of news organizations on a community, for better or for worse, could be assessed. Researcher triangulation was employed to help ensure the accuracy and validity of findings, with three researchers carrying out each of the study’s phases together.

To determine the level of access to news information, 18-questionsurveys were sent to the CBO leaders and 12-question surveys to the journalists in this study and recorded with Qualtrics software. The CBO surveys focused on how often groups had reached out to the media for—and whether they had received—coverage of their issues. The surveys of media organizations addressed the resources committed to covering the six communities and the frequency of reporting within them.

Interviews were then conducted during two focus group sessions, which were held in June 2022. The first, with the CBO leaders, took place at Hofstra University’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication. Participants were divided into five tables, with leaders from two to five CBOs represented at each. Participants discussed two primary prompts, including, “What are some of the effective channels or methods that you and your organization have used to tell your community’s story?” and “How would you describe the way in which your organization or your constituents are represented in the media?” Groups developed consensus responses, which were presented to the larger gathering in a town-hall format. Research assistants recorded both the table discussions and the town-hall session, transcripts of which were later printed and analyzed.

The second session, with a dozen journalists, was conducted over Zoom. The reporters and editors responded to questions individually within the larger group. Two main prompts were discussed, including, “Talk a little about the origin of your stories” and “What are the challenges of connecting with sources at community-based organizations?” The Zoom session was recorded, and a transcript was printed and reviewed.

An audit of news stories, covering the period from January 1 to June 30, 2022, was then carried out, with work beginning in September 2022 and concluding four months later in December. The first objective was to identify and record all or nearly all the stories produced by 14 media outlets that were identified as providing coverage for the six communities, listed below in Table Two.

Table 2

Media Outlets in the News Audit

• Anton Media Group (Nassau Illustrated and Westbury Times, both weekly newspapers)
• Herald Community Newspapers (Franklin Square-Elmont Herald and Freeport Herald, both weeklies)
• Newsday (the only Long Island-based daily newspaper)
• News 12 Long Island (TV)
• The Daily Mail
• The Daily News
• The Long Island Press (a news and lifestyle monthly publication)
• The New York Post (a daily newspaper)
• The New York Times (the largest of the daily newspapers in the study)
• WABC Eyewitness News (TV)
• WCBS New York (TV)
• WCBS NewsRadio 880 FM
• WNBC New York (TV)

Fewer than 500 stories were culled from among several thousand possibilities in the NewsBank and Newsday Recent databases and through Advanced Google Boolean site searches of the news organizations themselves. Two research assistants were trained in Boolean searching of the databanks, and they helped to pull stories from them. Hard copies of the three local weekly papers—the Franklin Square-Elmont Herald, Freeport Herald and Westbury Times/Nassau Illustrated—were also examined, as they did not post all their stories online. The articles and/or broadcasts were each analyzed and coded according to issue or topic: crime, education, environment, government, politics, etc. They were also separated into one of two categories, depending on whether a piece was episodic, focusing on a particular story in one of the six communities, or whether it was thematic, including a community in a quote and/or caption as part of regional coverage on a larger issue or feature. All data points, including the media outlets in which the pieces appeared, the story headlines, and their publication and/or broadcast dates, were recorded in one of four Excel spreadsheets.

The Results section below begins with qualitative data from the CBO leaders and journalists, followed by quantitative data on the categories and number of stories that were reported in the six communities, with deeper examinations of their headlines and images.


The community-based leaders’ perspective

In the surveys and interviews with more than two dozen leaders of the community-based organizations in this study, two key coverage themes emerged: one, news outlets were often unresponsive to their issues, and two, the media focused disproportionally on crime coverage. The leaders insisted there was a great deal more to their communities than the felonies and other sensational narratives that often define them in news coverage, but they said stories of hope and resilience were many times ignored by reporters, potentially leaving the impression in the minds of readers, viewers, and listeners that their neighborhoods were plagued by crime, particularly violent crime.

In a Qualtrics survey of 27 CBO leaders from the six studied communities, 17, or nearly 63%, said coverage of their neighborhoods and issues was “mostly peripheral and/or sensational,” while seven, or roughly 26%, said it was “very attuned to local needs.” Three said other. Among those who responded other, one said news media were “always multitasking,” while another described news outlets as “fickle, seldom interested in our population, our issues, or the evolution of services.” The third did not understand the question.

To the focus-group question of whether and how a CBO had sought coverage with a news organization within the past year, one leader responded that “negative and tragic stories are really what’s driving the headlines,” adding, “The grassroots news is really what’s kind of falling by the wayside.” By grassroots, this respondent was referring to community-based reporting.

To the focus-group question of how the CBO and its community were represented in the media, one respondent remarked, “All you ever hear about is crime and poverty and everything negative that [the media] can dig up about [these] neighborhoods.” As this study’s quantitative data will show, that was often the case in most of the six studied communities.

Another noted that coverage was generally positive at two points in the year—Thanksgiving and Christmas—“and then the rest of the year we’re sort of, you know, not on the top of everybody’s minds.”

One leader of a CBO that works with the formerly incarcerated described media misrepresentation as relentless, remarking, “When we’re talking about disinformation and misrepresentation in media, it’s something that we unfortunately encounter every day.”

Another CBO leader expressed concern for how media reports reflect on her group’s constituents, stating, “We’re trying to control how we’re perceived in the media, which involves, of course, prewriting these press releases . . . We don’t want to be misrepresented because the populations we serve, we don’t want them to be viewed negatively.”

The adjective most often used to describe the media’s coverage of the six communities and the CBOs themselves was “negative”—nine times during the focus-group interviews.

The journalists’ viewpoint

The 12 journalists in this study reported they were often frustrated by a lack of resources to cover the six studied communities and the neighborhoods beyond them. There were fewer editors and reporters at each of the outlets than there were in the past. Certain media organizations reduced staff members during the coronavirus pandemic and never brought them back. One outlet had recently merged three local weekly newspapers into one, with a single editor to cover the same territory that two or three once did.

To a survey question inquiring about the constraints that the journalists might face in reporting stories, one weekly editor said, “I have a feeling . . . I’ve disappointed many people. I get almost on a weekly basis calls, emails, texts, people asking, begging, pleading [with] me to look into something or other. I just don’t have the bandwidth.”

Another weekly editor noted, “I wish I could split myself like the sorcerer’s apprentice and send myself all over Hempstead.”

The experiences of these Long Island-based journalists reflect the national trends described in the Literature Review, with newsroom staff reductions spreading editors and reporters considerably thinner than they had been in the past, forcing many journalists to take what were considered “reporting shortcuts” a decade ago, emailing interview questions to sources (Loeppky, 2022), for example, rather than conducting street-level, in-person interviews, the traditionally recommended method of shoe-leather newsgathering. In a survey question of 14 journalists in this study regarding their preferred means of communicating with sources, 72% said either email or phone, while 14% chose face-to-face interviews, though in their focus-group interview, the journalists did report they were “boots on the ground” in the studied communities. One station executive noted that her organization had recently held a series of “community convenings” to hear about people’s issues.

Regardless, gaining trust within historically marginalized communities can be a challenge not only because of limited resources, but also because of widespread fear of media misrepresentation among local leaders and residents, the journalists reported. As one deputy editor stated, “You may go [into] Wyandanch or Hempstead, you want to talk to somebody, but they don’t want to talk to you, because they don’t think you’re going to present their side fairly.”

Crime stories

The news audit identified (N=469) stories on at least one of the six studied communities. Of those, 43.28%, or (n=203), were produced by the two Heralds; followed by Newsday, with 29.85% of stories, or (n=140); and then the 11 other media outlets, with almost 26.87%, or (n=126).

Herald Community Newspapers included the Franklin Square-Elmont Herald and the Freeport Herald. The aggregated news organizations comprised Anton Media Group, News 12 Long Island, The Daily Mail, The Daily News, The Long Island Press, The New York Post, The New York Times, WABC Eyewitness News, WCBS New York, WCBS NewsRadio 880 FM, and WNBC New York.

Statistically, crime pervaded coverage in a majority of outlets. Nowhere was this more evident than in Uniondale, an unincorporated area of the Town of Hempstead (population 793,526, Census Bureau, 2020) that had the highest percentage of crime stories in the news audit. In this community, 51% of the total news coverage—26 of 51 articles and broadcasts—was crime-related over the six months of the audit. When Newsday was removed from the mix of outlets examined, crime coverage rose to 73% of stories on Uniondale, or 19 of 26. Meanwhile, no critical issues other than education were covered in the community.

Much of the Uniondale coverage came from five sources—Newsday, News 12, The Daily Mail, WABC Eyewitness News, and WNBC New York—with only a handful of stories from other outlets. Table Three gives a breakdown of crime coverage in Uniondale versus other reporting for each of the five outlets.

Table 3

Crime Stories by Outlet in Uniondale

Outlet Crime and
Police Stories
In Uniondale
Stories Other
Than Crime
Total Stories Crime As a Percentage of Coverage
News 12 5 1 6 83%
Daily Mail 4 1 5 80%
WABC 3 1 4 75%
WNBC 3 1 4 75%
Newsday 7 18 25 28%


In the five other communities within this study, crime as a percentage of coverage was as follows below. Reporting by Newsday, the two Heralds, and the Westbury Times/Nassau Illustrated newspaper was excluded from these figures.

  • Hempstead Village: 62%
  • Elmont: 60%
  • Westbury Village: 36%
  • Freeport Village: 25%
  • Roosevelt: 25%

Across all six communities, an average of 25% of Newsday stories was crime-related, reaching a high of 46% in Hempstead.

Crime comprised a significantly lower percentage of the two Heralds’ coverage in Elmont and Freeport when compared with the above media outlets’ reporting. In the Franklin Square-Elmont Herald, crime accounted for 7.3% of the total coverage, and in the Freeport Herald, 3.28%.

In March 2022, The Westbury Times became Nassau Illustrated, which no longer covered Westbury full-time, but rather mostly aggregated stories from papers throughout the newly reconstituted eight-edition Anton Media Group. Five Westbury Times/Nassau Illustrated stories were on Westbury itself during the six-month audit. Meanwhile, there was one story on a murder in Uniondale, one on a fatal drunken-driving crash in Uniondale, and one on a murder in Hempstead, despite neither of the two communities falling within the coverage areas of Anton Media newspapers, which are based mainly in upper-income, majority-White neighborhoods on Nassau County’s North Shore, often referred to as Long Island’s “Gold Coast,” or middle-class, majority-White areas on Nassau’s South Shore (see

Overall, crime comprised nearly a quarter of all coverage in the 14 media outlets, at 23.2%, or 109 of 469 stories.

Issue-oriented stories

At the outset of this study, a list of 11 critical community issues, or themes, was developed against which media coverage could be evaluated to determine which of them had received substantive coverage within the six communities. Of 16 respondents, nearly half—7.3—said the media had provided either no coverage or poor coverage on the 11 issues, with immigration, youth empowerment, and gender receiving the lowest average marks. Table Five provides the respondents’ mean ratings for the issues, from highest to lowest.

Table 4

Community-based Leaders’ Ratings of News Coverage

Issue Mean Score
Culture/Arts 1.8
Food/Nutrition 1.76
Police Reform 1.6
Education 1.56
Healthcare 1.56
Housing 1.38
LGBTQ+ Issues 1.27
Environment 1.13
Gender 1.07
Youth Empowerment 1.06
Immigration 0.88


Meanwhile, in a survey of 10 journalists who cover the six studied communities, education, the environment, and housing were reported to be the most frequently covered issues,   and LGBTQ+ issues, police reform, and gender were the least.

Table 5

Journalists’ Reported Frequency of News Coverage

Issue Mean Score
Education 4
Environment 3.44
Housing 3.44
Healthcare 3.38
Culture/Arts 3.20
Immigration 2.86
Youth Empowerment 2.63
Food/Nutrition 2.38
LGBTQ+ Issues 2.33
Police Reform 2.25
Gender 1.75

In the news audit, the one issue among the 11 to receive coverage of any significance was education—115 of 469 stories, or 24.5% of total reporting. However, 59% of these stories—or 68 of the total—appeared in the Franklin Square-Elmont and Freeport Heralds.

Table Seven below gives the total number of stories for each of the issues that appeared in the 14 outlets during the news audit. It should be pointed out that half of the culture and arts stories—15 of 30—were published or broadcast during one of two times—the week of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on January 15 and in February, Black History Month.

Table 6

Stories Covered by Issue

Issue Total Number of Stories Percentage of Overall Coverage
Education 115 of 469 24.5
Culture/Arts 30 6.4
Healthcare 16 3.4
Housing 9 1.9
Environment 7 1.5
Youth Empowerment 6 1.3
Immigration 2 .42
Police Reform 2 .42
Food/Nutrition 1 .2
LGBTQ+ Issues 0 0
Gender 0 0


Fifty-six percent of Newsday’s coverage of the six communities (79 of 140 stories) was thematic, with one or more of the communities included in a quote, photo caption, and/or paragraph as part of regional coverage on a larger issue or feature, while 44% was episodic, focused on a single story in a particular neighborhood. Among the aggregated media, 12.7% was thematic (16 of 126 stories), while 87.3% was episodic. And among the two Heralds, 8.4% was thematic (17 of 203 stories), while 91.6% was episodic. It should be noted, though, that 99% of Freeport Herald stories were focused on the community, making it the most hyperlocal outlet in this study.

The many thematic stories found in Newsday’s coverage provided overviews of big-picture Long Island stories and thus did not hone in on the six studied communities with depth, while its episodic stories did, as did the overwhelming majority of the Heralds’ stories. A number of CBO leaders noted they were often called for a “quick” quote or statistic on a larger issue rather than a deeper report on their organizations and their constituencies. Meanwhile, the aggregated media’s stories were primarily episodic because many of them were breaking-news pieces that applied only to a specific community.


The proclivity of news organizations to center crime, as seen most conspicuously in Uniondale, often caused the clustering effect described in the Literature Review, whereby a string of startling story headlines from competing outlets appeared in the news cycle within short timeframes. Below are two samplings of 2022 headlines on Uniondale:

  • “Police arrest 5th person in alleged MS-13 teen killing in Uniondale,” News 12, January 18.
  • “Long Island MS-13 murderer, 22, is charged over FOURTH killing of teen murdered in woods in 2016,” Daily Mail, January 20.
  • “LI MS-13 gang member sentenced for involvement in 4 separate killings,” WCBS News Radio, January 25.
  • “Second man charged in gang killing of LI teen,” Newsday, January 27.
  • “Police: 32-year-old fatally shot in Uniondale,” News 12, June 3.
  • “Man fatally shot on quiet Uniondale street, stunning neighbors,” WABC Eyewitness News, June 3.
  • “35 years for LI gang murder: Bloods member admitted string of violent crimes,” Newsday, June 18. 
Quotes and photos

After the US Supreme Court handed down a decision in June 2022 expanding the right to carry firearms outside the home across all 50 states, New York strengthened its background requirements to own and carry a handgun and enacted a measure prohibiting concealed-carry permit holders from taking their firearms into “sensitive” locations such as Times Square, schools, and bars (Office of Governor Hochul, 2022).

On May 23, 2022, in the lead-up to the Supreme Court’s decision, The New York Times published the story, “The Latest on the Supreme Court’s Ruling and the Senate’s Passage of a National Gun Safety Law” (Astor, 2022). This national story included a photo of an unidentified gun shop in Hempstead, which was not otherwise cited in the piece. The image showed 12 large guns hung on a wall, with an American flag in black and blue below them. The caption read, “Rifles on Thursday at a gun store in Hempstead, N.Y.”

On June 23, The Times published the story, “Hochul Pledges New Legislation After ‘Shocking’ Court Decision on Guns,” about the governor’s plan to call a special legislative session to enact the new laws (Bromwich et al., 2022). The story included a quote from a Uniondale gun shop owner, Andrew Chernoff, who supported the Supreme Court’s decision.

On June 24, The New York Post published a story, “Eric Adams Says Private NYC Businesses Can Restrict Guns” (Crane, 2022). A photo of an unidentified gun shop in Hempstead illustrated the story, even though the piece was on New York City, not Nassau County where Hempstead is located. The close-up image showed two sets of White men’s hands fingering a Combat Master handgun above a glass countertop, with more guns inside the cabinet below.

There was not, in fact, a gun shop in Hempstead, NY (Village of Hempstead) at the time of this study, though there was a firearms training academy in the community. There were six gun shops throughout the wider Town of Hempstead, five of which were in majority-White neighborhoods and the one in Uniondale.


Regardless of why The New York Times and New York Post ran these Associated Press images of gun shops, the photographs may have left readers with the impression that the Village of Hempstead had a gun shop when it did not. Moreover, the use of the quote and photos may have given readers the sense that Hempstead and Uniondale, two largely Black and Brown communities located next to each other, are heavily armed. No predominately White communities were selected for the three stories, despite the presence of gun shops in nearby Albertson, Franklin Square, Hicksville, Levittown, Merrick, Mineola, New Hyde Park, Rockville Centre, and Wantagh. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, New York had 1,785 licensed firearms dealers and pawn brokers at the time that this study was conducted (Stebbins, 2022), any one of which could have been chosen for a quote or photo to illustrate the above stories, but they were not.

Publishing quotes from and photos of guns shops in Black and Brown communities (correctly identified or not), without the use of similar imagery in White neighborhoods, suggests a form of implicit bias in their selection and could fuel long-held stereotypes of these areas as armed and potentially dangerous, as if the issue of gun safety were confined to them. Seemingly arbitrary editorial choices such as the above, when made repeatedly, could leave residents in communities of color feeling ignored and stereotyped, particularly when their voices are not heard and their issues are not covered with consistency, which leads us back to our research questions.

RQ1: How are the six largely Black and Brown communities at the center of Nassau County, NY, presented in news coverage?

The majority of community-based organization leaders within these six areas contended the news media focused heavily or nearly exclusively on crime within their neighborhoods, and those perceptions were largely borne out in the quantitative data, except in the case of the two community newspapers, the Franklin Square-Elmont Herald and the Freeport Herald. Further, our study demonstrated that Black and Brown people were often excluded from regional news media coverage, with critical issues rarely covered, if at all, the one exception being education. Meanwhile, two community media outlets provided more balanced coverage, with a wider array of issues addressed and, more particularly, local events and human-interest stories covered.

RQ2: How do community leaders within these areas think and feel about news reporting on their neighborhoods and constituencies?

There was strong agreement in the CBO leaders’ perceptions of and thoughts on coverage of their communities and their constituencies, both in the qualitative and quantitative data. It was particularly striking to see the agreement within the quantitative data. News media, the leaders contended, were either stereotyping them and/or ignoring them. Meanwhile, the journalists spoke about a lack of resources to cover these communities properly and/or a sense within these areas that CBO leaders and average citizens were reluctant to speak with the news media because of fears of misrepresentation.

RQ3: Do the leaders’ perceptions of news coverage align with actual media reports?

Based on our quantitative review of news coverage, it appears the CBO leaders’ perceptions of reporting on the six studied communities were largely accurate and represent a strong understanding of their media ecosystems. The leaders believed the news media centered crime in their areas, and that was to a great extent accurate, the two exceptions being the Franklin Square-Elmont and Freeport Heralds. We should note here, though, that even within the two communities with hyperlocal outlets, the overall percentage of crime coverage remained high at 60% in Elmont and 25% in Freeport. This was despite the relatively low percentage of crime reporting within the two Heralds.

RQ4: To what degree are the six communities excluded from the media, leaving them as potential news deserts, or information vacuums?

Regional media, particularly the broadcast outlets, often excluded the Black and Brown communities within this study from coverage other than crime reporting during the six months of our research. Newsday made a clear attempt to report stories other than crime but was often limited in such coverage to education. Moreover, a majority of its reporting was thematic, only including one of the six communities in a photo caption, quote, or paragraph instead of a full-fledged story. As well, one in four of its stories was crime related. Meanwhile, as noted, the two community news outlets within the study, the Franklin Square-Elmont and Freeport Heralds, covered a broader range of issues and events. Therefore, we conclude, at minimum four of the six communities—Hempstead, Uniondale, Roosevelt, and Westbury—could be considered suburban news deserts.

The community journalism model in crisis

The Franklin Square-Elmont and Freeport Heralds followed a community journalism philosophy and model, according to interviews with journalists from these publications. Crime made up a significantly lower percentage of overall coverage within the Franklin Square-Elmont and Freeport Heralds because these publications covered their assigned communities with regular, neighborhood-based reporting, thus addressing people’s Critical Information Needs, or at least working to do so, and providing context to the crime stories that were published. No community should be defined solely or primarily by the felonies and misdemeanors that occur within it. These newspapers followed that principle. Elmont and Freeport thus could be described as news oases by comparison to the four nearby deserts, despite the relatively high percentages of crime reporting on these two areas found in other outlets. Or perhaps it might be said community papers follow a different script (Tomkins, 1987) than that of larger regional news organizations, one less centered on that which might go wrong within a neighborhood and one more focused on that which goes right.

In today’s media landscape, however, smaller community outlets are fighting for survival in an increasingly competitive news ecosystem in which ever more people consume stories on social media, with less focus on their immediate neighborhoods (Vorhaus, 2020). At the same time, local media, once thought to be immune to the type of skeptical questioning by the public that national and regional outlets have long faced, are increasingly vulnerable to the same deficits in people’s trust as seen with larger media (Sands, 2019). And Robinson (2014) points out that communities, once defined by location, have become porous in digital spaces. Many people no longer define themselves first and foremost by where they were born and where they live, though these remain important elements of community identity, but they also associate themselves with shared ethnic, professional, or ideological groups, as well as common causes (Hatcher & Reader, 2012). Though people might be closely connected to their local neighborhoods, they are becoming more tied to global online networks that pull them outside their geographic boundaries. Already-small community publications, therefore, may only become smaller—and fewer in number—in the future. The US now loses two newspapers per week, most of them local outlets (Fischer, 2022; Karter, 2022).

As shown in this study, though, community-based media organizations, where they exist, serve as key information providers for communities of color that have traditionally been portrayed in mainstream media as crime plagued and poverty stricken. Community newspapers and TV and radio stations often provide context by showing residents for who they are, many times with a focus on the good.


To understand and properly report on Black and Brown neighborhoods, journalists need the support and time to be on the ground in these places—not in their offices or homes communicating with the public via email and phone. As Babz Rawls Ivy, editor-in-chief of the Black-owned newspaper Inner-City News, in New Haven, Connecticut, told the Poynter Institute for a February 2023 article:

“I’m in community. [Residents] know me, and they trust us because I’m in community, because I go to their events . . . Don’t show up just for the tragedy. Don’t show up just for the shootings and the trauma. Show up for the celebratory things” (Chan, 2023, The Power of Being Present, para(s). 2 & 5).

Here, we must acknowledge the indelible mark that Black-owned and -operated newspapers, often referred to as the “Black press,” have made in not only covering and giving voice to communities of color dating back to America’s first Black-owned and -operated newspaper—Freedom’s Journal, founded in 1827—but also in shaping American history and democracy (Nelson, 1999). The Black press, which has practiced community journalism since its inception, was instrumental in providing for the Critical Information Needs of the formerly enslaved in the years and decades of the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War (1865-77), in bringing about the Great Migration of southern Black people to northern cities in the early part of the 20th century, and in igniting the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and 1960s (Nelson, 1999). However, the Black press, like most all community press, has steadily declined in influence since the 1960s and ’70s (Nelson, 1999), leaving many communities stereotyped and starved for information.

News media funders such as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the Google News Initiative would do well to focus their efforts to sustain journalism on supporting and expanding community outlets, the base of the US media ecosystem, in particular the Black press and other “ethnic media,” including the Hispanic press, the Native American press, the Asian press, and others. Within community-based news media, audiences find a counterbalance, a counternarrative, to provide context to the sensationalized crime coverage that too often defines communities of color. The essential mission of such hyperlocal media is to show communities in their true form, beyond the tragedies that often frame Black and Brown neighborhoods in larger news outlets.

 Study limitations

Our study did not include majority-White communities for comparison to determine how they might be treated by the media, which was a limitation. In recent years, a number of news organizations have reported extensively on the many forms of systemic racism within American society. If this project could determine definitively that majority-White communities received preferential treatment in the news, without the heavy focus on crime coverage and with their critical issues covered, then it could indicate potential bias, possibly even a form of structural racism, within the media on Long Island and perhaps beyond. As well, it should be noted that a new newspaper, the Uniondale Herald, was opened on May 18, 2023, after this study was completed; therefore, it was not included in our findings.

Next steps

The next step in this project would be to conduct a similar mixed-methods study of surrounding majority-White communities, as well as to extend the study of Black and Brown areas to neighboring Suffolk County to gauge the repeatability of this project’s findings. From there, it would be a matter of continuing to expand the number of sampled communities, examining other regions of the country.


About the Authors

Scott A. Brinton is an assistant professor of journalism, media studies and public relations at Hofstra University’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication. He received his MA from Columbia University, Teachers College, and he is an MA candidate, at the  University of Missouri School of Journalism at Columbia

Aashish Kumar is a professor of television and immersive media at Hofstra University’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication. He received his MFA from Brooklyn College and has an MS from  Indiana State and an MA Delhi University.

Mario A. Murillo is the vice dean and professor of radio journalism, media studies and Latin American studies at Hofstra University’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication. He received his MA from New York University.

Conflict of interest statement

The study’s lead author, Scott Brinton, was formerly executive editor of Herald Community Newspapers, parent company of the Franklin Square-Elmont and Freeport Heralds. He was no longer employed by the Herald at the time of this study, and he did not have, nor does he have now, any financial or other interest in his former company. Rather, he was, and is now, a full-time Hofstra University journalism professor. Otherwise, there were no other potential conflicts of interest.

Design Front Page

ENROLLMENT NOW OPEN- Print Prodigy: Crafting Compelling Design FREE TCCJ Workshop

Are you a Print Prodigy?

Attention all creatives, journalists and design enthusiasts!

Are you eager to learn the how to build better newspaper layouts? Are you passionate about visual storytelling?

Would you like a design pro to critique your layouts and offer personalized tips? Look no further!

The Texas Center for Community Journalism will host a FREE workshop PRINTING PRODIGY: CRAFTING COMPELLING DESIGN in Fort Worth.
It will run 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday, June 28 at the Tarleton State University-Fort Worth Campus.

Whether you are a seasoned layout pro or new to the design trade, this workshop is for you.

Layout and design are our most requested workshop topics, and we are thrilled to have such a session back on our schedule.

The workshop is completely FREE and will be led by veteran design trainer Broc Sears.

It will be an intense, full day of practical tips and design inspiration you’ll be able to employee at your shop immediately.

The agenda will include:

  • Design fundamentals
  • Effective ad design
  • Better print design
  • Web publications
  • Headline and cutline writing
  • And more

We will also offer opportunities for Broc to give your publication design a once-over and prepare a personalized critique of your work. You’ll go home with a concrete plan about how to improve your design.

This will be a one-stop-shop for the working designer looking to sharpen their skills, but there is no experience required.

It will also be a great asset for the entry level layout person as well.
The training and meals are completely FREE, thanks to a grant from the Texas Newspaper Foundation.

We just need you to get to Fort Worth on June 28 and be ready to learn more in one day than you ever thought possible.


So, click on the link and fill out the form. You’ll receive confirmation within 24 hours of completing the application.
After that, just clear your schedule and be prepared to be blown away.

We hope to see you next month in Fort Worth!

Front Page

Brand new Iowa Park Journal rolls off the press

The city of Iowa Park, Texas has a newspaper once again after losing local coverage more than a year ago.

The first edition of the Iowa Park Journal rolled off the press and into newsstands Thursday, Feb 1. The community celebrated with ribbon cutting downtown.

“Our community lost a little of itself when the previous newspaper closed,” Iowa Park EDC director David Owen said. “No one was telling our stories. Our businesses lost an avenue to advertise… we are thrilled to have a newspaper again.”

The legacy paper, the Iowa Park Leader, closed its doors 18 months ago.

“We made an effort to buy the Leader then,” Journal publisher Daniel Walker said. “That didn’t work out and that’s okay. We are starting something brand new here and it is exciting.”

Walker also owns the Vernon Record, the Burkburnett Informer Star and the Clay County Leader in Henrietta.

“Iowa Park is so close in proximity to our other papers that it’s a natural fit,” Walker said. “And the community has welcomed us with open arms.”

According to Walker, Iowa Park city leaders reached out six months ago. They explained their plight without a newspaper and offered his company some incentives to take a chance on a new publication in Wichita County.

Walker reached out to the Texas Center for Community Journalism (TCCJ) for some advice on best practices and, soon thereafter, the ball was rolling.

“It was an exciting phone call,” TCCJ director Austin Lewter said. “All we hear in national headlines is the downfall of the community newspaper. I don’t buy it and the evidence bears that out. There are new newsroom starts popping up all over the country. We are excited to see it happening in Texas. The fact that city reached out is proof that local news matters.”

Lewter said, folks found out what it was like to lose their newspaper and city leaders wanted to fix that.

“It’s a testament that every community in the state and the nation needs to know about that. These leaders in this community saw a need,” Lewter said. “They saw that nobody’s covering local news like the local newspaper can. They saw that businesses need somewhere to advertise. They saw that Facebook doesn’t work.”

Lewter made some suggestions and the Center helped secure circulation supplies for the upstart paper.

“The TCCJ has been integral to this project from day-one. We appreciate all the help and support we’ve received from Austin and his team,” Walker said.

In an introductory column published in the Journal’s first issue, Walker explained that papers would be distributed for by hand until word spreads and they qualify to apply for a Periodical Mailing Permit.

“We are not making a big push for (mail) subscriptions yet,” Walker wrote. “For now, we are going to hand deliver subscriptions, sell them at vendors and from coin-operated racks.”

Walker also said becoming a newspaper of general circulation requires a year of consistent publishing.

“With this edition, we have begun that process,” Walker wrote. “Until that year passes, we cannot print legally binding public notices. Fortunately, the Burkburnett newspaper is a legal newspaper in Wichita County, and any legal notices they print, we are going to reprint for free in the Iowa Park newspaper.”

The newspaper office is located at 121 West Park in downtown Iowa Park.

Charles Ashley will serve as assistant publisher and Bill Humphrey is the newspaper’s editor.

Readers can contact Humphrey with story ideas by emailing [email protected].

Jesse James is the advertising director.

The paper has launched a new website as well. You can read online at

Walker will discuss the upstart’s story at a TCCJ symposium Feb. 29 at the University of Texas in Austin.

He will be one of several community journalists discussing “Courage, Tenacity, Integrity and Innovation in Rural Journalism,” in a free, one-day conference hosted by the TCCJ, the Institute for Rural Journalism and the Center for Ethical Leadership in Media.

“I am thrilled to have Mr. Walker on our afternoon panel focusing on innovation in community journalism,” Lewter said. “The success story in Iowa Park is proof-positive that community journalism is alive and well. Contradicting the popular narrative is the very definition of ‘innovation’— in my book.”

For more information about the TCCJ event, visit the Center’s website

Housed at Tarleton State University, the Texas Center for Community Journalism is committed to providing world class training and support to mid-level professionals at community newsrooms across the state.

Front Page

Post-Signal changes hands

Daniel and Rosemary Thatcher of Hamilton have purchased The Post-Signal, based in Pilot Point, from David and Pam Lewis.

The Lewis’s served as the owners of the newspaper from Sept. 1, 1974, to Jan. 12, and David led the paper as publisher for the duration of their ownership.

The Post-Signal has been part of our family for almost 50 years, and it’s hard to believe that we are no longer affiliated with it,” David said. “Pam and I are happy that we found someone who loves the paper as much as we do to take it over, and we expect Abigail to do us proud. It’s also a point of pride that we are leaving the paper to the first female publisher in The Post-Signal’s long history.”

During that period, the Post-Signal earned 10 Texas Press Association sweepstakes awards for being the best weekly paper in its division in the state and eight North and East Texas Press Association sweepstakes awards.

Richard Greene, an award-winning community journalist himself, worked with David for many years and contributing to four of those TPA sweepstakes awards.

“David Lewis’ impact on Pilot Point and Northeast Denton County is immeasurable,” he said. “As community journalists, our hope is to impact our home by keeping our neighbors informed and make it a better place. Between his thought-provoking columns, countless hours of proofreading and meticulously crafting award-winning issues, he rarely missed the mark. David Lewis is truly one of the finest community journalists.”

Daniel and Rosemary are the parents of Abigail Allen, who has been part of the Post-Signal staff since 2017.

The couple values community journalism and the role it plays in the communities covered by a local newspaper.

“We believe in community newspapers,” Rosemary said. “We enjoy the Hamilton Herald-News here, and I especially enjoyed the one I grew up with. I just think they’re important to record the comings and goings and accomplishments of the area.”

The Thatchers have a background in photography, having owned a photography studio called Camera Magic from 1971-1985, and Daniel has a background in finance management for multiple agricultural businesses.

Their daughter, Kisca Crowe of Providence Village, will manage the newspaper’s finances, while Allen, also of Providence Village, will serve as editor and publisher.

During her tenure at the paper, Allen’s contributions helped the Post-Signal win four consecutive TPA sweepstakes awards and three NETPA sweepstakes awards.

Allen also serves on the NETPA board and is a regular contributor to the Texas Center for Community Journalism.

The Post-Signal tells the stories of the communities along the U.S. 377 corridor northeast of Denton, with Pilot Point, Aubrey, Krugerville, Providence Village, Cross Roads and Tioga being its primary focus.

“We are entrusted by the communities we serve to keep our readers informed of the decisions that affect their lives and to chronicle the life events and challenges our community members face,” Allen said. “I take joy in this work, and my goal is to help preserve the feeling of connection and community that our growing area needs.”

Mike Hodges, executive director of the Texas Press Association, expressed his appreciation to the Lewis’s for the continuous participation in the Texas Press Association and that the Thatcher family is “committed to our association and to working … statewide to help the newspaper industry.”

“That it’s being purchased by a local family—we can’t ask for anything better than that for the future of the newspaper and our industry,” Hodges said.

For more information about the newspaper, visit

Front Page

Community journalists will talk courage, tenacity, innovation and integrity at UT-Austin Feb. 29

Rural journalists in Texas and other states are invited to attend “Courage, Tenacity, Integrity and Innovation in Rural Journalism,” a free, one-day conference at the University of Texas on Feb. 29.

The meeting will feature two winners of the Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism: 2023 winner Craig Garnett of the Uvalde Leader-News, and Laurie Ezzell Brown of The Canadian Record, who won the award with other family members in 2007.

They will appear on a morning panel with Randy Keck, editor and publisher of The Community News in Aledo. The panel will be moderated by Benjy Hamm, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism at the University of Kentucky, which will present the Gish Award to Garnett at the conference luncheon.

The afternoon panel will be moderated by Austin Lewter, director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism at Tarleton State University. It will focus on successful innovation in rural journalism and will feature Tara Huff of the Eagle Press in Hutchinson County; John Starkey of newly nonprofit Rambler Texas Media, which includes the Ozona Stockman in Crockett County; and Daniel Walker, who bought the Vernon Daily Record, Burkburnett Informer Star and Clay County Leader last year in May 2022 after editing the Vernon paper for 11 years.

The conference will be hosted at the Texas Union, 2308 Whitis Ave., by The Center for Ethical Leadership in Media of the UT School of Journalism and Media, directed by Drs. Kathleen McElroy and Mary Bock. It will begin at 9:30 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. A block of rooms will be available at the Moxy Austin-University.

“When Craig Garnett said he would like to receive the Gish Award in Texas, we realized that would be a wonderful opportunity to share the sort of work and dedication that is often needed to do good journalism in rural areas,” said Al Cross, director emeritus of the Institute for Rural Journalism. “Kathleen McElroy was very gracious to help us do that, and we are very glad to work again with the Texas Center for Community Journalism to help rural journalists in Texas.”

The event is free. Register here. 

“Community journalism is alive and well in Texas and we are thrilled to help celebrate that,” Lewter said. “This event is of national significance and we expect a wonderful conversation among our panelists.”

Laurie Ezzell Brown
The Canadian Record

Laurie Brown’s family won the Institute for Rural Journalism’s Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity in 2007, for their long record of investigative journalism and courageous editorials.

Brown stayed the course set by her father, Ben Ezzell, after he died suddenly in 1983 of a heart attack suffered while covering a Canadian High School football game. But she set a new rule: She would not write an editorial about a local topic that had not been covered in the weekly’s news pages.

Her focus was the well-being of Canadian, which in 2021 had a population of 2,248, and Hemphill County, pop. 3,271. She supported a private youth correctional facility to create jobs in a town defined by the ups and downs of oil and gas, and investments for the football stadium – after she met with the superintendent to secure refurbishing of the middle school’s auditorium. But she also wrote columns supporting Barack Obama and rebuking two racists who had come by her office to disparage him in 2008, calling on readers to accept the results of the 2020 election, and republishing the 2021 Associated Press investigative story that found little fraud in the election.

Brown’s views often run counter to those in Hemphill County, but her readers saw in the Record’s broad and deep news coverage an unmistakable commitment to the community, to the point that they paid $2 a copy for it in recent years. Her investigative reporting of Roberts County Attorney Rick Roach’s drug abuse and legal problems led to his narrow defeat when he ran for district attorney in 1996, and her investigation of large-scale hog farms led the Hemphill County commissioners to oppose tax incentives sought by the companies, which went elsewhere.

After Brown turned 65, she started looking for a suitable buyer. She found one, but the sale fell through because the buyer couldn’t find anyone willing to move to Canadian to edit and manage it. In early 2023, at 70, with another sale pending but complicated by a groundless lawsuit against the Record and other news outlets, she pulled out of the deal and stopped printing, saying later that she wanted to know her grandchildren better and not die on the job as her father did.

The Record continues on the web and Facebook, demonstrating Brown’s commitment to serve her community as she keeps looking for a new owner. She said at the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America in July that she doesn’t really like Facebook, but advertisers “see the traffic it’s getting,” and it’s filling a need: “There have been storms here and tornadoes and events like that that you just can’t ignore. They’re happening. We need to cover them. People look to us for information.” The Record published its annual high-school graduation edition, with photos of graduates, as a PDF.


Craig Garnett
Uvalde Leader-News

Craig Garnett won the 2023 Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism for his coverage and commentary of the Uvalde school shooting and its aftermath, and for his longtime willingness to tell hard truths about things that matter in Uvalde County.

Garnett earned an economics degree from Southern Methodist University, joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, moved to the Kansas City Star, became general manager of the Leader-News in 1982 and owner and publisher in 1989. Under his leadership, the twice-weekly paper has won many awards.

In nominating Garnett for the Gish Award, Leader-News Managing Editor Meghann Garcia said his shooting coverage wasn’t the first time that he went against local opinion. Garnett editorialized against the Iraq War, opposed a pipeline that would send to San Antonio water needed for local agriculture, and opposed the idea of a separate school police force, which botched the response to the shooting.

“Craig has never been afraid of taking a stand or telling the news, despite how unpopular it might be with subscribers and advertisers, who are also often his friends,” Garcia wrote. And he has used his own family’s troubling experience as an example to give hope to others.
His wife, Melissa Garnett, recalled a column “about our son’s process of recovery from drugs and alcohol. That took courage. He must have hit all the right notes, as the response was great – he had taken the bold step of using his pain of an addicted child to remove the stigma of talking about addiction.”
The column celebrated their son’s year-plus of sobriety and said of those in thrall to opioids, “We should do all we can to help them discover a path because inside every addict lives someone’s treasured child, father, husband, brother or friend.”

After the shooting, Garnett spent hours “sitting with families who lost children, siblings, friends; interviewing survivors, teachers and students, about their experience,” Garcia wrote, saying he made a “dogged pursuit to learn how so many things went wrong that day, how every single fail-safe failed.”

In an editorial a month after the shooting, Garnett named names and was blunt: “No mass school shooting in the United States has ended with such glaring failures in both the law enforcement response and school district security. . . . Neither [school] Police Chief Pete Arredondo, acting city chief Mariano Pargas, Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco nor any state or federal officer among the 376 responders to the scene was willing to take the helm of what was clearly a rudderless ship cast into a hurricane.”

A week later, another Garnett piece endorsing more gun control concluded: “I am not about to surrender my guns, and they are many, but I challenge you to give me one good reason (and please not the ‘slippery slope’ argument that did not come to pass when assault weapons were banned) why a teenager should have the firepower to stand down 376 lawmen. If disturbed young men are going to commit horrific crimes with firearms, why not take the most devastating amplifier out of the mass shooting equation?”


Tara Huff
The Eagle Press

A small weekly in the Texas Panhandle is growing exponentially.

Tara Huff has owned the Eagle Press in tiny Fritch, Texas, since 2010.

Fritch is in Hutchinson and Moore counties and boasts a population of 2,100. It is 15 miles west of the Hutchinson County seat, Borger, pop. 12,000. Hutchinson County is in the middle of the Panhandle and has a total population of just over 20,000 people.

The Eagle Press was founded in 1988 and Huff first went to work there in 1995.

“Initially, I sold ads and wrote a few stories,” Huff said. “I left the paper and came back a few times over the years.”

She was working there in 2010 when the opportunity for ownership came about.

“The people who had purchased the paper let it go back. The previous owner asked me if I wanted it,” Huff said. “I was going to have to find another job or buy the newspaper. So, I bought the paper.”

Since that time, the Eagle Press has been largely a one-woman shop with Huff involved in every aspect to operation.

“Of course, I rely on some wonderful community contributors,” Huff said. “I couldn’t do it without them.”

Until recently, the Press was officed in her house and she covered mainly the eastern half of the county.

But that has changed over the past two years.

“We are covering news different than anyone else in the county,” Huff said. “We offer a type of coverage that is different. We are community centered, and we are present. I am involved. I make an effort to cover meetings and events personally. And we are fair in our reporting.”

Huff said her readers are accustomed to quality reporting that is vetted, non-biased and accurate.

“When it comes down to it, I work hard, and my readers know it. They trust me to ask the tough questions,” Huff said.

Two years ago, the County Commissioners took notice and named the Eagle Press their official newspaper of record. Other entities have followed suit. Readership has grown along with Huff’s business.

“We are renting an office in Borger now,” she said. “We moved out of my house. We are growing. My biggest concern now is trying to hire people.”

The Press has grown circulation by 25% over the past 18 months and Huff is projecting more growth in 2024. “I am busy,” she said. “I’ve got to hire some folks.”

Huff is a West Coast native who found the Panhandle as young adult.

She began her media career at a Borger radio station and cites her journalism education to lot of own-the-job training.

“I look at other newspapers. That’s how I’ve learned,” she said. “I’ve studied newspapers like Canadian and Clarendon and am never afraid to ask questions.”


Randy Keck
The Community News, Aledo

When Randy Keck bought his weekly newspaper in Aledo 28 years ago, he was pretty much a rural journalist; east Parker County had one elementary school. Now it has seven, driven by growth west of Fort Worth, and he has a suburban newspaper with a static print circulation but a growing online audience that is 25 times larger than the print one, as measured by unique monthly visitors.

The area’s growth has brought both opportunities and challenges. When the school district proposed a bond issue a few years ago, it was opposed by a group that didn’t file its campaign-finance report on time, wouldn’t respond to inquiries from the paper and turned out to have the same address as a group running campaigns against the local state representative.

Keck wrote news stories and columns about that, and the bond issue passed.

It turned out that the group’s only contributor was a former state representative who had founded the group running campaigns against the incumbent legislator, financed mainly by two billionaires in West Texas, two “extreme, extreme, extreme, right-wing religious radicals who think you shouldn’t get elected to any public office in Texas unless you profess Christianity.”

In the 2022 primary, the group mounted radio and direct-mail attacks against Rep. Glenn Rogers, who won in a runoff with a recount over the more conservative Mike Olcott.

Before the election, Keck published charts showing where Rogers and Olcott got most of their money. The chart for Rogers was “a lot less complicated,” Keck says, because many of Olcott’s were funneled through several entities.

Since then, Rogers voted for Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment and against Gov. Greg Abbott’s school-voucher plan, and in the March 5 primary he has the same opponent, who is endorsed by Abbott.

Keck says he is planning to double down on his coverage, doing fact-checks of campaign mailers. When a billboard went up saying Rogers had joined Democrats to impeach Paxton, Keck wrote a column pointing out that 75 percent of House Republicans had voted the same way.

Keck said he has made an editorial endorsement only once, when a mayoral candidate would have been a disaster for the city, which has many new residents who weren’t familiar with the candidates.

He said his approach to campaign coverage may have cost him a couple of advertisers, but says he’s “doing what has to be done.”

Keck, 63, has been president and chairman of the Texas Press Association, and represented Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri on the Board of Directors of the National Newspaper Association, and is treasurer of the NNA Foundation. He is a graduate of Midwestern State University.


John Starkey
Rambler Texas Media

John Starkey is no stranger to innovations in community journalism.

He has practiced the profession in one of the largest metropolitan markets in the country for 20 years.

He is the longtime owner of Rambler Texas Media. His company publishes The Rambler, in Irving, as well as the Ozona Stockman.

Starkey says community journalism in a metro area will force a publisher to be agile.

“We have a very small but committed readership,” he said. “They care about the community. They are engaged and active. It is the matter of funding our work that has become an issue. . . . There are no mom-and-pop businesses in our market. They are all chains and franchises. To businesses like this, the tradition advertising model is becoming less and less effective.”

With that in mind, Starkey took his business to a non-profit structure on Jan. 1, 2023.

“There are simply more possible revenue streams available by going non-profit,” he said. “It works for our businesses.”

Starkey says a nonprofit can more easily get revenue from sponsorships, memberships and events: “For-profit papers can host events too, but the community seems more willing to get behind an event hosted by a nonprofit.”

He thinks that’s because, once a newspaper goes the non-profit route, it is no longer owned by any single person. “The Rambler is now owned by the community,” he said. “We exist to promote the good of the community. . . . That is our mission.”

As a nonprofit, the newspaper can no longer endorse political candidates or take a side on political issues.

“We don’t even accept political advertising,” Starkey said. “We don’t have an opinion one way or the other. We can’t advocate for a candidate and the community has responded to this. They seem excited about us being required to be objective.”

Starkey bought the Irving Rambler in 2003 after a 13-year stint at the Dallas Morning News.

At the time, the city which serves as a geographical midpoint between Dallas and Fort Worth, had a population of 195,000.

Now, 20 years later, it is well over 250,000 with the surrounding cities and suburbs having grown just as fast.

They rebranded as the Rambler News in 2012 and expanded coverage into neighboring Coppell and Grand Prairie.

The shift to Rambler Texas Media came on Jan. 1, 2023, when they converted to non-profit.

The company expanded in June when the non-profit structure afforded Starkey the chance to save the 130-year-old Ozona Stockman from shuttering.

“The difference between Ozona and Irving is staggering,” Starkey said. “We are learning about rural journalism and the community has been receptive.”


Daniel Walker
Vernon, Texas

A North Texas editor turned owner is finding success and his new role — so much so that a neighboring town is offering incentives for them to expand their coverage.

Daniel Walker bought the Vernon Daily Record, Burkburnett Informer Star and Clay County Leader, in Henrietta, in May 2022.

He had served as the editor in Vernon in since 2011.

“When we got the chance to buy the papers, it was a no-brainer,” Walker said. “The community has responded. They see that we are putting down roots and that we will be here for the long term.”

Since the acquisition, Walkers’ group has purchased a building in Henrietta and is investing in their Burkburnett property.

They have added three fulltime news positions and expanded their sales force.

“More than anything, we are not afraid to experiment,” Walker said. “No idea is off the table. We don’t say ‘no’ and that is a value we instill in our staff.”

And it is getting noticed.

Late last year, the city manager of neighboring Iowa Park, Texas called Walker with a problem. His community has been without a newspaper since the Iowa Park Leader closed its doors in July 2022.

“He told me the community was lost without a newspaper,” Walker said.

“He said residents didn’t know where to get information. Facebook was not working. And businesses had no place to advertise to customers. He asked me what it would take to get a newspaper back in his town.”

True to his word, Walker didn’t say “no.”

He made a few calls and put a plan together. The city is kicking in some economic development money and a brand-new newspaper is set to launch in Iowa Park, Texas in February 2024.

As of press time, the new paper’s name is still up in the air.

“That’s the hardest part — picking a name,” Walker said. “We are still working on that.”

“More than anything, this is a testament to the importance of community journalism. Iowa Park lost their newspaper and the community suffered. We are excited to be part of the solution.”

Walker is a native of Arkansas. He began journalism career in 2001 at Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. newspapers in Oklahoma and Kansas before taking the helm of the newsroom at the Greenville Herald Banner prior to the move to Vernon.

“North Central Texas is home,” Walker says. “We are building something here and the sky is the limit.”


The Center for Ethical Leadership in Media

University of Texas at Austin

Founded in 2017 and now housed in the School of Journalism and Media and the Moody College of Communication at University of Texas at Austin, the Center equips today’s and tomorrow’s news leaders with the tools needed to respond to the rapid changes in the industry and to run newsrooms where all can succeed. The center is dedicated to fostering safe, fair and sustainable news media through its research, multi-disciplined curriculum and leadership training.

Directing the center are Drs. Kathleen McElroy and Mary Bock, each with extensive journalism experience, and Carolyn McGourty Supple, a co-founder and tech executive who is now senior advisor and board chair.


Institute for Rural Journalism
University of Kentucky

Part of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media, the Institute has worked for 20 years to help rural journalists define the public agenda in their communities, through The Rural Blog and other efforts. It focuses on the sustainability of rural journalism and has sponsored the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America.

Benjy Hamm became director of the Institute in August, following founding director Al Cross, who remains a professor and director emeritus. Hamm was an editor for The Associated Press and The New York Times Co., editorial director of Landmark Community Newspapers and a journalism instructor at Campbellsville University in Kentucky.


Texas Center for Community Journalism

Tarleton State University

Housed at Tarleton State University, the Texas Center for Community Journalism is committed to the providing world class training to mid-level professionals at community newsrooms across the state.

The Center was founded in 2007 at Texas Christian University by director emeritus Tommy Thomason. It moved to Tarleton in 2019.

Austin Lewter was named director of the TCCJ in 2021. He is an instructor of journalism and broadcasting at Tarleton and faculty adviser for the student-led Texan News Service. Lewter and his wife Jennifer also own and operate the Whitesboro News-Record, a 150-year-old weekly in Grayson County.


Front Page

TCCJ hosts sports coverage workshop

: Sierra Wells/TCCJ Contributor


Journalists from newspapers around Texas joined the Texas Center for Community Journalism (TCCJ) on Sept. 28-30 for a workshop about covering sports at community newspapers.

“The mission of the center is to provide training to folks like y’all, mid-level professional journalists who are out in the trenches doing the work. That’s our main goal,” TCCJ Director Austin Lewter said.

Eastern Illinois University Professor of Journalism Joe Gisondi started the workshop with a presentation about multimedia sports coverage.

He highlighted the importance of finding your newspaper’s audience. Whether it be on your website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, post where people follow and consume your content most.

“Too often we think of the website as the main feed, just like for the print edition. It’s not all about the print, it’s not all about the website,” Gisondi said. “It’s about wherever you can find them. Like back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, you could see newspaper boxes in every corner because that’s where people were.”

Gisondi also stressed the importance of visuals in sports reporting, such as photos and videos, because they aid in storytelling.

“We want to have a visual every time for a couple of reasons,” Gisondi said. “When you put it on Facebook, when you put it on Twitter, when you put it on social media, there’s nothing more unprofessional or clunky looking than to have your masthead of your paper as the main thing for your story. That doesn’t help tell the story.”

Professional photographer Brian Braun joined later and gave further insight into sports photography.

Throughout the rest of the workshop, multiple speakers discussed how to best cover sports events.

Denise Squier, the editor for the Burleson County Tribune, went over volleyball coverage, which journalists can struggle with due to the complex rules and terminology.

Squier thinks reporters need to understand the team structure and rules to adequately cover a game.

“It’s hard to write about something you don’t know anything about,” she said.

Hood County News publisher Sam Houston gave a presentation on how to rethink traditional sports coverage.

“Young people now, the last thing they want to do is take a vacation to California and go to Chili’s,” Houston said. “Anybody in here agree with me on that? They want to go to someplace that’s unique, different and special. That’s the mindset now.”

Houston says sports results in print newspapers are old news because people can receive that information online more quickly.

“That’s why you have Facebook,” he said. “That’s why you have online. People need it instantly. That’s where you want to drive it.”

Due to a recent cultural shift toward technology, Houston thinks it is important to exist not only in print but on online and social media platforms as well.

Lewter closed out the workshop by encouraging the journalists to put what they learned into action but only if it works with their newspaper’s dynamic.

“You’re not going to implement everything you learn. You’re not going to want to implement everything you learn,” Lewter said. “Some of y’all just listened to Sam talk for an hour and were inspired, and some of y’all were like, ‘that’s not going to work for me,’ and that’s fine. We’re not here to dictate what you do. We’re here to give you those ideas. I always said that if you come away from these things with one or two things that you can put into action, then it’s worth your time.”

The upcoming TCCJ workshop in November will cover social media marketing and harnessing the power of social media through community newspapers.

Founded in 2008, the TCCJ is housed at Tarleton State University and is dedicated to training community journalists at no charge to them or their employers.

Front Page

Naples newspaper returns after year-long hiatus

Sierra Wells/TCCJ contributor

Despite facing unexpected obstacles over the past few years, local newspaper in Naples, Texas, has persevered and is continuing to print new editions after a nearly a year out of print.

“The Naples Monitor was established in 1886 and is the oldest continuing business in Naples, Texas,” Owner Morris Craig said.

Morris and Melba Craig took over ownership of The Monitor in 1972.

The Monitor covers all types of news from Bowie, Cass, Morris and Titus County. They print about 1,200 papers each week, as well as the occasional special edition.

“Special editions are always put together at Christmas, Easter and some local Naples Watermelon Festival specials,” Morris said. “We also did a sports special edition a couple of times when the Paul H. Pewitt Brahmas won the Class AA football State Championship and then another time when the Bulls made it to the State Finals,”

In 2010, the Texas Press Association presented Morris with their Golden 50 Award, honoring his long career in the news industry.

However, the Craigs’ service in the news industry was interrupted when Morris was diagnosed with stage four cancer. During this time, their last set of papers for a while printed on July 15, 2021.

“We were not sure about the future at that time, and we had The Monitor on the For Sale market,” Morris said.

Months passed without a new edition. This, however, was not the end of The Monitor. Over time, things started looking up for Melba and Morris.

After receiving good news from the oncologist, the Craigs decided to return to their newspaper and start printing again.

“We had a couple of bedrooms that were not being used since our children had gone out into the world on their own. We moved the needed equipment from the downtown area to our remodeled rooms at our home,” Morris said. “New equipment was purchased and a grandson was offering to help with the new typesetting equipment and new programs.”

Their first edition back from hiatus printed in July 2022, marking the official return of The Monitor.

Front Page

Metroport Messenger brings hope for the future of printed news

Sierra Wells/TCCJ contributor

During a time when many newspapers have had to permanently close their doors, Mary Rampellini was inspired to open her own newspaper, the Metroport Messenger, in Roanoke, Texas.

“I know it’s been very tough for those in print. Part of opening this was wanting to have something tangible in people’s hands, so their histories are recorded,” Rampellini said.

Publishing its first edition in July 2020, the Metroport Messenger covers school news, economic developments and public services in Roanoke, Westlake, Justin and Trophy Club.

“Serving others is one of the features I try to have every issue. And that’s someone who goes out and is working to better the lives of somebody else. They’re serving others, and that’s very important to me,” Rampellini said.

When the newspaper was first getting started, the COVID-19 pandemic posed various challenges with advertising.

“I really felt that it’s proper that I not go into a lot of stores face-to-face to business owners, so I made calls, phone calls, to try to sell ads, out of respect for others,” Rampellini said. “So that was probably limiting not meeting people face-to-face. We’ve been able to move beyond that.”

The Metroport Messenger prints five to six times a year, with approximately 10 editions already out. Rampellini hopes to grow the newspaper to print monthly in the future.

Rampellini previously opened a newspaper in Roanoke when she was 19 years old. However, after selling it, the newspaper eventually shut down.

“At that time there were about 5,000 addresses in the community; it’s the same communities that I’m doing, and now there’s over 15,000, so the growth has been incredible,” Rampellini said. “I think part of the challenge is uniting a larger amount of addresses and people with a community newspaper. I think it was easier when there were 5,000.”

Despite the popularity of printed news wavering, the Metroport Messenger has been consistently growing since opening.

“Our sales were the highest they’ve been this last edition, and I would say, generally speaking, we’ve climbed with each edition with sales. So, it’s been a very slow but steady growth,” Rampellini said.

Along with the print edition, community members can find links to the paper on the Metroport Messenger’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“I certainly know its very tough to compete with the electronic world. We do put out a digital edition; we post that on social media,” Rampellini said. “I realize that has to be an aspect of business nowadays, but I was just really hoping that throwing it back, going a little old school might be a hit.”

“I think it’s very tough for print, but I’m hoping that there’s places for all of us that have newspapers to still have enough people supporting us in the print that we can carry on,” Rampellini said.

Sierra Wells is a senior journalism major at Tarleton State University. She is the Managing Editor of the Texan News Service and is a TCCJ contributor.