Local that Works


Local that Works spotlights innovative and replicable content, engagement and revenue initiatives at public radio and TV stations and nonprofit and digital news organizations in the U.S. LTW includes an annual contest and a database (below). LTW produces webinars that offer insights into projects and organizations that are reshaping local civic journalism.

Explore the database of 634 Local that Works projects. Check out Local that Works contest Winners, Finalists and Semifinalists by clicking on those colored tags. 

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Bay Area News Collective: A Seven-Newsroom Collaboration to Assess the Geographic Representation of Local News

Bay City News Foundation
2022
Nonprofit News Org/Other
Katherine Ann Rowlands
kat@baycitynews.com
https://assets.bloom.li/documents/banc/BANC_ProjectReport.pdf

Traditionally, local newsrooms have used communication strategies apart from other news businesses in the same region, creating blind spots or redundancy in news coverage and accessibility. One news service may not serve a certain area or carry information important to its audience, causing readers to miss relevant stories; another news outlet may double up on a topic, putting scarce resources into a story already being covered well by an adjacent or competitive organization. This uncoordinated patchwork of coverage can lead to uneven or inaccurate local news perceptions.

Bloom Labs collaborated with seven organizations, including Bay City News, as part of the Bay Area News Collective to assess the geographic diversity and density of news in the San Francisco Bay Area. The others were Mercury News, East Bay Times, Marin Independent Journal, San Jose Spotlight and KQED. The project’s goal was to identify and respond to patterns of local news representation, or lack thereof, through the perspective of personal experiences in the communities and current geolocated news coverage.

Newsrooms used the Bloom for Publishers geotagging plugin in their CMS, and used Google’s Natural Language API to automatically tag subject area categories. Over 8,200 stories were geotagged that represented news items from 486 neighborhoods. A dashboard allowed for filtering by location, timeframe, category and sentiment.

Qualitative interviews complemented the quantitative data from geotagging to provide a holistic view. The goal was to understand how people feel represented and/or underrepresented in local news, what makes them feel that way, and how their trust and behaviors change across different local sources, information and contexts. Interviewees were selected to match the Bay Area population diversity, including factors like race, religion, economic status, etc.

The project’s collaborative approach enabled us to leverage patterns that are more inclusive of news coverage as we brought together insights from multiple newsrooms and regions in the Bay Area into one space simultaneously. Data analysis helped streamline resources across newsrooms and identify priority areas for future focus.
The outcomes of the project, including “representation indicators” and collective maps, showed what places and topics were — and were not — being covered. These markers were valuable for both newsrooms and residents, guiding the way for more useful, diverse and equitable news experiences.

When the project grant ended, newsrooms including the Mercury News and Bay City News continued on with Bloom. These two newsrooms noticed there were more insights to gain by continuing to geotag news. Both newsrooms have Bloom maps automatically appear below all news articles on their websites. Mercury News readers have given positive feedback about this feature, and are signing up for a “News Near Me” newsletter using the mapping technology.

For Bay City News, seeing the work aggregated and having a filter for time, topic or geography helped reinforce or challenge assumptions about what we were covering. It also helped to identify staffing opportunities where news coverage was lacking - for example, hiring a reporter in Vallejo because of a lack of consistent coverage in the North Bay. With every story geotagged, we provide extra context for readers who can see where a story happens on a map.

Spatial analytics is an understudied area, and this project is an important advancement in the field. Newsrooms can benefit from having a different understanding of their news coverage and the communities they interact with when they have the opportunity to analyze geographic data along with other layers of information in a spatial analytics framework. We hope that the project inspires continued experimentation in this area, and provides actionable takeaways for other newsrooms interested in better understanding their coverage through geospatial approaches.

The project was initially funded by the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge. Revenue growth was indirect for Bay City News as casual readers became more loyal readers using this tool, and eventually moved up the ladder of engagement to become small to medium-sized donors. Bloom has captured some ongoing revenue based on the continued use of its geotagging plugin.