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.