The News Ecosystem Mapping Project (NEMP) at the Center for Cooperative Media is a first-of-its-kind effort to map, at a granular level but with scale, all local news providers, and local news ecosystems, in one U.S. state: New Jersey. The hope is that the project acts as a proof-of-concept and that the method we have developed can also be applied elsewhere.
Along with mapping local news providers, we gathered basic data about them, including their primary medium, whether they serve an ethnic audience, their ownership structure (independently owned versus conglomerate), the outlet’s frequency of publication, and the character of the area it serves (rural, suburban, or urban).
In addition, we gathered structural data about all 565 municipalities in New Jersey, including median household income, the percent of the population with a college education or higher, municipal spending per capita, voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election, and whether the municipality voted Democrat or Republican in 2016. We are using that data, correlated with the number and type of local news providers, to identify the structural characteristics common to news deserts and news oases.
After mapping the news outlets, the next step is to perform cluster analyses to identify local news ecosystems; once this is complete we will be able to perform analyses at both the municipality and the ecosystem levels.
Our goals for this project are three-fold: 1. To help residents more easily find their local news providers, and thus be better informed; 2. To facilitate the support and expansion of local news in communities that lack robust local journalism; and 3. To advance the methodology for understanding the 21st century local news landscape.
Mapping the local news ecosystems of New Jersey will help the Center for Cooperative Media better serve and facilitate the network of local news providers that make up the New Jersey News Commons, while also serving as a pilot effort from which the method may be refined and applied to other states or areas.
Inquiries may be directed to CCM Research Director Sarah Stonbely, at [email protected]
Phase I of this project was a meta-review of the news ecosystem literature, which identified three main components by which existing research on the subject may be organized: guiding metaphor, boundary used, and method. The paper concludes by identifying a method for the “gold standard” ecosystem study. Read it here.
Phase II involved building a comprehensive list of local news providers serving New Jersey (including those based in NYC and Philly), collecting structural information about those outlets and about the municipalities they’re located in, and creating an online map to visualize this information (view the map here).
Phase III will be an analysis of the structural characteristics of the local news ecosystems that make up New Jersey, categorized as news deserts and news “oases.” This will involve performing comparative analysis to discover which types of municipalities and local news ecosystems support robust local news and which do not, providing scaled empirical data to address this urgent question. We anticipate this phase beginning in Summer 2020.
Phase IV will be an analysis of content produced by many of the 770-some local news providers serving New Jersey. With support from Internet Archive, we have already captured more than 2TB of online content and hope to begin this analysis in Spring 2021.
Phase V will supplement our trove of supply-side data with analysis of the audience. We will use surveys, interviews, and/or focus groups to better understand the reach and impact of the local news that serves New Jersey.