Pew research important in diversity issue

From an anecdotal standpoint, this is something many already felt.

The Pew Research Center has released a new “Local News in a Digital Age” report based on their findings in three U.S. media markets — Denver, Colo., Macon, Ga. and Sioux City. While the entire report is worth the time you’ll spend with it, and perhaps even more compelling due to the Iowa connection, the section on diversity bolsters many ongoing local discussions as well as initiatives by advocacy organizations.

Late last month, I published a column detailing inaugural diversity discussions in North Liberty. It was during the meeting that Chad Simmons, executive director of Diversity Focus, discussed what communities need in order to thrive. Specifically, he lamented a lack of local outlets for news and information that reach minority populations, such as Spanish-language radio stations.

It is a widespread sentiment well-known to those who have attended diversity and access discussions throughout the Corridor. People want access to the news they believe to be important, desire a dialogue with existing media outlets regarding ongoing coverage and hope to amplify the information they already have.

(Source: Pew Research Center, "Local News in a Digital Age," March 5, 2015)
(Source: Pew Research Center, “Local News in a Digital Age,” March 5, 2015)

While addressing such needs and wants is no small challenge, doing so has intrinsic value to existing news outlets and individual writers, who, like me, hope to engage and connect with as many facets of our communities as possible.

Minority communities, based on the newly released data from Pew, are seeking specific information about their local neighborhoods and regions. Further, they are doing so in much larger numbers than their neighbors.

While the Sioux City market did not provide enough minority responses to measure, Pew took a closer look at the Hispanic community in Denver and the African American community in Macon.

Researchers learned that Hispanics in Denver are about twice as likely as whites to very closely follow local crime, jobs and education news. African Americans in Macon were much more likely, 70 percent to 43 percent, to follow local and regional news, especially in the area of economics and employment.

(Source: Pew Research Center, "Local News in a Digital Age," March 5, 2015)
(Source: Pew Research Center, “Local News in a Digital Age,” March 5, 2015)

Even as minority populations were not inclined to rate their city as “an excellent place to live,” they were much more likely to believe they could change the situation and make their city a better place to live. As evidence of that, minorities were more likely to have commented on local news websites or blogs or to have called into a live television or radio program.

Where the research differs from anecdotal evidence is in the belief that Iowa minority populations need specialized news outlets.

Such is the case in Denver, where several news outlets conduct specialized outreach to the Hispanic community. But, in Macon, African American residents have remained similarly engaged in local coverage despite a notable lack of specialized outlets.

The take-away for Iowa advocacy groups and media outlets shouldn’t be to build it so they will come, but to do a better job for the people already standing in line, waiting for relevance.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on March 8, 2015.