Tapping into the networks of the local journalists and audiences, Jesse Hardman of the Internews, works to make sure people have the right information when they need it.
He accomplishes this goal by researching how the local communities get shared news and how the ownership of the local media companies affects the diminishing of the news coverage on the ground.
Jesse Hardman works for a project, the Listening Post, which supports the flow of journalism. The Internews provides over 70 countries around the world with accessible community media.
He visited Coyote Chronicle in February 2020 in an effort to find out more about how we do our work. We wanted to catch up with him and share with our readers more about his research goals and finding thus far.
Q: Could you please tell a little bit about project about media in the Inland Empire and your role in it?
A: The Irvine Foundation are interested in changing the outcomes in California that struggle with public health, environmental issues, etc. and concluded that one of the ways you create healthy communities are by making sure everyone stays informed. Although the news industry hasn’t always been perfect, there was more sustainable news, but with a place like the Inland Empire where the local newspaper was heavily relied on, they are not owned locally, or they are owned by a venture capital firm that may be more interested in the business assets, so they may not be investing in what’s going on in San Bernardino or other Inland Empire counties.
In some ways, there’s less reporting going on in places like San Bernardino about local government, policing, housing, employment, and other categories that locals are interested in. Some of that has been filled in with new media, for example digital media with Facebook groups, that may not always be sourced news and have all the aspects of journalism. I am looking into try to fill the gaps of missing news and ask communities how they would get news, what topics/issues they would like to hear more about, and how people pass on that information.
Q: How has the pandemic affected local media coverage in the IE? Do you think they are doing a better job?
A: In a time like the pandemic, although as much as media can do a really good job with being in the moment and making sure people are informed, what you tend to see is local government, community organizations. You see a variety of community actors sharing information and making sure people have the information they need, which can vary from one community to the next.
For example, I work with this community journalism called The Boyle Heights Beat and one thing we noticed is that there isn’t enough localized information/news that was getting out in Spanish to that part of the city. One reporter, whose parents were originally from Mexico, said to me that they really only started getting the information they needed when COVID-19 hit Mexico a little bit worse and the information was slightly delayed here in the US. That’s when Mexican media started really covering the virus, and that’s when her parents felt like they were finally getting the news they wanted, published in Spanish.
At the beginning, it was very critical that people were getting the news they needed about COVID-19 because everyone was out and about, not realizing that they could be spreading the virus. I think people rise to the challenge at times like this, but they’re not necessarily prepared, so there is a lag time from media outlets/local governments and everyone getting up to speed.
Q: How do you think the has the number of readers/ viewers changed in the IE’s throughout the past year/past decade?
A: Although I am still looking into those answers, for example, I found that The Riverside Press Enterprise and The San Bernardino Sun are owned by the same company being identical and they are two different cities with two different realities that are publishing the same news, which means people aren’t really getting that local attention that they need.
An active community member reached out to me the other day and noticed this drop in civil engagement in San Bernardino and there’s a variety of reasons for that happening, such as population change, but I aim to investigate those issues.
Q: Would you say the Inland Empire is a news desert? If so, why and how? Who should worry about that and why?
A: There are local news options in the Inland Empire, but not consistent ones. Legacy media, like the Sun and Press Enterprise don’t have the robust reporting staff and editorial presence they once did. And you have very few reporters keeping an eye on things like school board meetings, city council action, law enforcement, etc., and that means two things, people aren’t getting the news they need in order to really participate in the civic life on the Inland Empire, and, the entities with power in the Inland Empire aren’t being checked or reported on to keep them honest.
Q: What are the biggest unrealized potentials of news media in the IE?