Currently viewing the tag: "Jaigris Hodson"

Staff reporter

July 19, 2018

The relationship between local charities and news, an app that tracks the diversity of local news sources, and the use of crowd-sourcing to track changes to local news organizations are among the ideas discussed in a new publication from Ryerson Journalism Research Centre (RJRC).

The groundbreaking online multimedia journal published in early June combines academic papers, videos and a podcast to explore the decline of local news.

“We wanted to create content that will draw in readers who may otherwise get turned off by seeing a long academic article that some people find boring or difficult to read,” says Jaigris Hodson, an assistant professor at Royal Roads University in British Columbia and co-editor of the publication.

The Future of Local News brings together nine peer-reviewed papers by academics who attended Is no local news bad news? Local journalism and its future, a conference the RJRC organized in Toronto in June 2017.

“The collection explores the most crucial parts of traditional news production and distribution models, while building on the best of what we are learning about technological disruption,” Hodson and co-editor Asmaa Malik, an assistant professor at Ryerson University, write in the publication’s “Letter From the Editors.”

“It considers the role of local news in Canada and around the world and asks what role policy, financing models and new technologies might play in forging a new path forward.”

The impact of digital technology on local news research and local news itself is a topic explored in a number of the papers, including a piece by Malik and Ryerson associate professor Gavin Adamson. Their article outlines how an algorithmic tool they are developing can be used to track the diversity of sources in local digital news stories.

Hodson says the editorial team also had the benefits of digitization in mind when deciding how to publish The Future of Local News.

“We talked about going the traditional route and publishing it in a major print journal, perhaps as a special issue,” she says. “That would have been the safe way to go, but we were passionate about making this research accessible to a broader audience…By publishing online, we thought that we could create a variety of voices and issues and get them out much more widely and accessibly in both their language and presentation.”

Hodson says that she hopes the journal will reach individuals in communities who “may not yet understand why they need to support their local news,” as well as entrepreneurs who can help find creative solutions to the problems presented. Above all, she says it’s her duty as an academic to making this research accessible to the public.

“Taxpayers support universities and support our research, so we should aim to make it as widely accessible as possible. People need information about what our researchers are doing. That kind of thing can change the world.”

You can read, watch and listen to The Future of Local News by clicking here. Within the multimedia journal, you’ll find the following articles, video and podcast:

Giving begins at (the) home(page): Local news and charities
Joyce Smith, Ryerson University
From food, clothing and Christmas toy drives to raising money to send children to summer camp, Joyce Smith’s paper examine some of the ways in which “the worlds of local journalism and local charities have connected.” The paper dives into a short history of the news outlet’s relationship to forms of generosity and the alliances between news outlets and both religious and secular charities. It also examines how these relationships may change along with rapidly changing local news ecosystems.

Disrupting the local: Sense of place in hyperlocal media
Carrie Buchanan, John Carroll University
As part of an ongoing research project, Carrie Buchanan analyzed the content of three competing hyperlocal and community news outlets in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio to see how each “differ in the sense of place they project” about the same community. The three outlets examined were The Heights Observer, a citizen journalism publication run by community volunteers; The Sun Press, a community weekly newspaper staffed by professional journalists; and, which is part of a national network of hyperlocal websites. Buchanan’s content analyses of these outlets found that The Heights Observer was the only outlet to name more local than non-local places, and that it was the only outlet where the five most-named places were actually located within the publication’s stated coverage area.

Southern voices telling Northern stories: The importance of local media in coverage of the Crystal Serenity cruise
Tyler Nagel, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
Alycia Mutual, University of Northern British Columbia
What’s the value of local media? This video explores what community journalism looks like in an area that isn’t well covered by mainstream media. It uses a case study of the 2016 visits by the Crystal Serenity cruise – the largest cruise ship to transit the Northwest Passage – to three small arctic Canadian communities. Researchers Tyler Nagel and Alycia Mutual analyzed the content of articles written about the cruise from local northern media sources, mainstream southern media sources and the CBC.

Assessing news media infrastructure: A state-level analysis
Philip M Napoli, Duke University
Ian Dunham, Rutgers University
This paper analyzes the number of local news-producing outlets and the number of affiliated news workers (i.e. the news media infrastructure) in each U.S. state. The comparative analysis reveals that two regions of the country (the Mountain West and a cluster of states in the Northeast) have significantly less robust news media infrastructures than would be expected, and therefore “may be where local journalism is most in need of support.”

Shattering the myth? Audiences’ relationship to local media and local news revisited
Lenka Waschkova Cisarova, Masaryk University
Jakub Macek, Masaryk University
Alena Mackova, Masaryk University
This paper explores the “myth of the local,” i.e. the presumption that audiences are highly interested in local news in their communities. This myth focuses on U.K. and U.S. audiences but may not be applicable to other countries, say researchers from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic. This paper uses a quantitative survey and interviews population to examine the Czech population’s interest in and relationship to local news.

Death by natural causes or premeditated murder? BC chains eliminate competition by buying, trading, and closing newspapers
Marc Edge, University of Malta/University of Canada West
Between 2010 and 2014 the British Columbia newspaper chains Black Press and Glacier Media exchanged 33 publications, of which 24 have since been closed or merged. Many of these outlets were closed after the companies swapped titles, which points to the possibility of a  “trade-and-close strategy” form of collusion meant to improve their bottom line. Marc Edge’s paper uses this case study to probe “Canada’s antitrust laws in dealing with newspaper mergers and takeovers.”

Is no election news good news? A case study and comparison of Nanaimo, B.C. Twitter feeds and The Nanaimo Daily News during the 2015 Canadian election
Jaigris Hodson, Royal Roads University
“What happens in Canadian communities that are underserved by national media outlets when local news outlets close down?” In this academic podcast, Jaigris Hodson examines how The Nanaimo Daily News’ failure to use social media to cover and engage with readers during the 2015 election may have foretold the publication’s closure in 2016. Using this case study and a study of how little local political issues in Nanaimo were discussed via Twitter during the election, Hodson counters the argument that social media can easily bridge the hole in local communities left by the loss of local news outlets.

Geospatial tools for the visualization and analysis of local news distribution
Claus Rinner, Ryerson University
April Lindgren, Ryerson University
Andrew Komaromy, Ryerson University
Just as computer mapping software has become a standard feature in today’s newsrooms, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to analyze and visualize the geographic distribution of news itself. Using sample data of geographic references from local news items published in the Toronto Star, this paper demonstrates how GIS can identify concentrations and gaps in local news coverage.

Towards an algorithmic journalism assessment tool: Accounting for source diversity in local digital news
Gavin Adamson, Ryerson University
“To whom do journalists speak? Who do they quote? From whose point of view are stories told, and whose voices get the most prominence?” These are some of the questions that led to the creation of JeRI (the Journalism Representation Index), software that can identify, quantify and categorize the sources quoted in news stories. In this paper, Gavin Adamson and Asmaa Malik detail the development of this algorithmic tool and how they tested whether JeRI can make same  the simple judgments about sourcing as humans.

The Local News Map: Transparency, credibility, and critical cartography
April Lindgren, Ryerson University
Jon Corbett, University of British Columbia
The Local News Map is a “crowd-sourced web-based mapping tool that invites the public to contribute information about local newsroom startups, closings, and service reductions/increases.” Researchers April Lindgren and Jon Corbett discuss how the  data collected acts as a “straightforward tracking device” of changes to local media. They also note, however, that maps are not neutral and go on to evaluate The Local News Map’s strengths, limitations and biases.

This is one of a series of articles and videos on the June 2017 conference “Is no local news bad news? Local journalism and its future” hosted by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre. Watch the full conference panel below. To read more about the conference and local news, visit:

Staff reporter

Local news is important, but it is far from perfect, says the lead researcher for the U.S. Media Deserts Project.

Speaking to a recent Ryerson University conference on the future of local journalism, Ohio University professor Michelle Ferrier said it’s time to focus the local news debate on people whose stories have traditionally been ignored or misinterpreted.

When Melanin Monroe –the sister of a Black man shot by a security guard in Ferguson, Missouri in March 2017– tweeted a photo of her brother, Ferrier took note. “This is our brother that was shot in Ferguson today,” Monroe wrote. “24-year-old, goes by the name Luh Jay Jay. Before the media puts out a photo of him.” Ferrier, who is her university’s associate dean of innovation, research/creative activity and graduate studies, used this example to show that not everyone feels “well represented” by the media, and cited it as evidence of the “damage that journalists themselves have done” to erode the trust of racialized communities in America.

“For some communities, it’s not going back to some golden age of journalism at the local level,” Ferrier said.

“For many rural communities and communities of colour, journalists are equivalent to the police, viewed with suspicion, where drive-by journalism is committed upon populations, where they’re considered zoo stories.”

Ferrier, the president of Journalism that Matters, is working on an ongoing project that aims to identify media deserts—geographic areas with no access to current local news and information. So far she has mapped newspaper circulation by ZIP code with a view to discovering gaps in coverage throughout the U.S. The next step will be to map hyperlocal coverage.

Ferrier said she wants to begin a new conversation about local news, one where journalists build authentic relationships and help the community see itself: “First and foremost we need to repair the trust that has been breached.”

Ferrier was part of the panel Understanding Local Journalism: An Overview, along with Damian Radcliffe from the University of Oregon, who suggested a local-news golden age never really existed, describing the nostalgia for one as a “fool’s errand.”

Radcliffe and Ferrier were joined by April Lindgren, associate professor at Ryerson School of Journalism, Colette Brin, director of the Centre for Media Studies at Université Laval, and moderator Jaigris Hodson, assistant professor and program head of interdisciplinary studies at Royal Roads University.

“Local news needs to reinvent and reinvigorate itself. It’s not going to be what it once was,” said Radcliffe, who is also a research fellow at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

His data comparing local news ecosystems in the U.S. and the U.K. show huge reductions in newsroom staff, boots-on-the-ground reporting, and advertising revenues across the board. More than 20,000 journalism jobs have been lost in the U.S. alone, said Radcliffe, and most of those aren’t coming back.

But to reinvent local news means knowing what it means.

“The definition of local is a real challenge for us researchers and also for policy-makers because it’s highly personal,” Radcliffe said.

“Everyone in this room would define local in a very different way.”

For example, he pointed out, the state of Oregon—population four million—is geographically bigger than the whole of the U.K.: “I work with people who might think that Oregon news is local news where that would be national in the U.K.”

Despite research challenges, Radcliffe insisted there are “very valid reasons for optimism.” There’s a chance to repair the breach of trust Ferrier spoke of, he argued, through innovations in storytelling, and through recognizing that “we now have access to tools which allow us to be more engaged, closer to our audience, and measure impact in a way that we never previously could.”

Canadian researchers are also trying to understand the challenges faced by local news media and how to take action in cases where communities are underserved. April Lindgren, lead investigator for the Local News Research Project, said the local news landscape in Canada “isn’t a pretty sight.” She called the growing awareness of the troubled local news landscape an “awakening” that has “coincided with the realization that we actually don’t know a lot about what’s really happening on the ground.”

Lindgren is investigating local news poverty—a phenomenon where local news has failed to meet community needs—through research projects such as a study that measured local news reporting on local races for MPs in eight communities during the 2015 federal election. Working with Jon Corbett from the University of British Columbia she has also created a crowd-sourced map that tracks local news media closures, mergers, and openings across the country. The map has identified nearly 200 media outlet closures in 150 communities since 2008.

“Increasingly in Canada policymakers and others are raising concerns about what’s going on,” she said.

Citing non-existent, flawed or incomplete data sets that make it difficult for researchers to do their work, Brin said lack of data about the local news landscape is also an issue in Quebec.

“We talk about local news poverty, we could also be talking about local news research poverty,” she said.

To know what’s happening on the ground is key to understanding what, if anything, to do about it, said Lindgren. Her team is developing a diagnostic checklist of news poverty risk factors—what Lindgren called a “shortcut to determine if a place is at risk.” Factors such as income, population and education are among the variables that will be investigated for possible inclusion on the list.

Lindgren said the work of the Local News Research Project is an attempt to address a problem identified by Carleton University professor Dwayne Winseck during his testimony before the House of Commons Canadian Heritage Committee during its 2016 hearings about the state of local news.

”When it comes to changes in the Canadian media landscape,” she said, “there are, as he (Winseck) put it, a lot of opinions and little data to act upon.”


The impact of newsroom cutbacks, consolidations and closures will be the focus of a new study examining local news poverty in communities outside of Canada’s major media centres.

Residents of Canada’s largest cities can turn to multiple sources for local news, but people who live in smaller cities, suburban municipalities and rural areas typically have fewer options, and in recent years their choices have become even more limited, says research team member April Lindgren, principle investigator for the Local News Research Project at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism.

“Access to local news is important to the democratic vibrancy and health of a community because people who have access to news are then equipped to participate in decisions that affect them,” Lindgren said.“ This project will examine the extent to which local news poverty is an issue outside of major cities where often there are still multiple newspapers and many other local news sources.”

The local news poverty research team brings together scholars with expertise in journalism, social media research and participatory mapping. In addition to Lindgren, it includes Jaigris Hodson, an assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies at Royal Roads University, and Jon Corbett, an associate professor in community, culture and global studies at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan.

Mapping changes to the local news landscape
The first phase of the local news poverty study involves the launch of a crowd-sourced map that documents gains, losses, service increases, and service reductions at local online, radio, television and newspaper outlets across the country. Lindgren is responsible for the map’s actual content, while the map itself is based on the Geolive participatory mapping tool developed by Corbett’s SPICE Lab (Spatial Information for Community Mapping).

“This map was unlike any other map we’ve tried in the past primarily because of the complexity of the information that needed to be presented,” Corbett said, noting that users will be able to view changes over time in a variety of ways including by media type and media ownership. When the map is launched in early 2016 it will present data on news outlet launches, closures and consolidations dating back to 2008.

Once the map is open for business, members of the public will be able to add information about changes to the local news landscape in their community. Lindgren says outreach for the crowd-sourced map will be done in phases to encourage regular contributions of new information over time. News about the map’s availability will be shared, for instance, with the community associated with the Geothinkresearch project, which provided funding for the map’s creation. Organizations serving journalists and news media, media workers’ unions, and communications and journalism scholars will also be encouraged to contribute.

“I’m hoping that we can also get the news media interested in the map so the general public will find out about it and add information to it,” Lindgren said, noting that the crowd-sourced data will be vetted to ensure the map’s accuracy. The map will also include a link to a survey that asks citizens about the availability of local news in their communities and whether their information needs are being met.

Investigating local news coverage of the 2015 federal election
In its initial phase, the project will also examine the role of local news coverage and social media in the 2015 federal election.

“We want to see how much news coverage there was of local contests for MP – what could people find out from their local news media and did they get enough information to make an informed decision,” said Lindgren, who will supervise the content analysis of news produced by traditional news sites in eight Canadian communities. Data on local reporting on the election was gathered by scraping all local news media websites in each community.

“To the extent that local coverage of the election reflects the vibrancy and viability of local news media, it may well be a proxy for local coverage in general and an indicator of different levels of local news poverty in different communities,” Lindgren said.

Hodson, meanwhile, is the principle investigator for Election News, local information and community discourse: Is Twitter the new public sphere? a SSHRC-funded project that will investigate the role of social media in disseminating news and information about the local races in the same eight cities, towns and rural municipalities.

“The common assumption is that social media activity can more than make up for any decline in local media coverage on an issue or event, such as an election,” Hodson said. “However, we feel that we need more research to determine if this type of activity is in fact occurring. This project will help us find that out.“

Hodson will investigate the extent to which Twitter and Facebook were used to share news and information about the local races in the eight communities. They include Brandon, Manitoba, the British Columbia cities of Kamloops and Nanaimo, and the Ontario municipalities of Brampton, Oakville, Thunder Bay, City of Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough.

Lindgren, who is co-investigator on the SSHRC project, said the communities were selected based on their location, whether they were suburban or rural, and their proximity to a major media market. The list also includes municipalities that have experienced a major disruption in local news sources (such as the closure of a daily newspaper or television station) and others where the media landscape has been relatively undisturbed.

Survey: Did voters get the news they needed to cast an informed vote?
The outcomes of the website and social media content analyses will be examined in conjunction with the results of a survey conducted during the 2015 campaign. The survey asked voters questions about where they went for news about the local contest for MP, whether they used social media to comment on or share local election news, and whether their local media gave them enough information to cast informed votes in the 2015 federal election.

“Among other things, we’re hoping this survey data will help us investigate whether there is any correlation between the amount of coverage of the local races for Parliament and voter participation,” Lindgren said.

This story originally appeared on the Local News Research Project  website.