Americans' information needs not being met, study finds

July 12, 2012 by Stacy Forster, University of Wisconsin-Madison

( -- Americans' lives are still grounded in the communities where they live and require a set of basic information to navigate daily life, despite the proliferation of technology that seems to shrink the world by the hour.

But even though these clear needs exist, research suggests that they're not being met, according to a group of researchers led by Lewis Friedland, a professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and , along with Ernest Wilson, dean of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for and Journalism, and Philip Napoli, a professor at Fordham University.

The research was commissioned by the , which was looking to examine existing research to identify the American public's information needs, as well as barriers into participation in the communication industry.

"The information needs of local communities are not at odds with the national or global community," the report concludes. "But they are unique and specific.

That is why we recommend that the FCC conduct serious, rigorous, research into whether and how these needs are being met. We have recommended that modeling community communication ecologies that can investigate whether and how local information needs are met is a critical first step to understanding how markets, and individual and group actions can work together to meet the information needs of their communities."

Friedland and his research partners presented their findings to the FCC last month; a Webcast of the presentation is available here. They reviewed more than 500 pieces of literature and research to determine what areas need further study.

When it comes to critical information needs, the study determined there are forms of information that are necessary for people to live safe and healthy lives; have full access to educational, employment and business opportunities; and fully participate in civic life in their communities, the researchers found. To meet those needs, communities need access to information about emergencies and risks; health and welfare; quality of local schools; transportation, including alternatives and schedules; economic opportunities, including job listings and training; the environment, along with air and water quality; and civic and political information.

Although neighborhood news is becoming hyperlocal with greater online news sources, there is the chance that many low-income communities will become "news deserts" without the same access to information, the study found.

Friedland says he expects the report will lead to a national research project to pursue further study on these topics.

Friedland founded and now directs the Center for Communication and Democracy, and his research and teaching focus on civic and citizen journalism, communication and society, and civil society and public life.

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1 / 5 (1) Jul 12, 2012
Although neighborhood news is becoming hyperlocal with greater online news sources, there is the chance that many low-income communities will become "news deserts" without the same access to information

It took a while for the article to get around to the point: more funding for poor people. If they can prove that printing a local newspaper for poor people will help raise their standard of living, I would gladly purchase a stack of newspapers a day to be distributed in poor areas.


However, from the above link, I think that having a major university has something to do with literacy. Printing the newspapers for the poor doesn't mean they'll actually read them. Handing them an iPad doesn't mean they'll do anything more than play angry birds! Some people just don't care about information!
1 / 5 (1) Jul 14, 2012
The lamestream media sells only controversy and agit-prop as they whistle past their graveyard. The academic publishers are only a bit better, but it is very frustrating to have to navigate paywalls in search of quality information on which to base public policy. My Island of 700 is only just now addressing Lyme/ticks.

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