Local News Discussion comes to Providence

What issues matter most to you in the Providence area? Are you receiving the news and information you need about those issues? Share your vision for local news during a conversation with the Solutions Journalism Network, United Way, and your neighbors. is pleased to be participating in this discussion, along with other invited news outlets.

This discussion is taking place at the United Way office and is open to the public:

Thurs., Feb. 13 – 6 to 8pm
50 Valley St., Providence

Light snacks will be provided, as well as an opportunity to voice your opinions via a news consumer survey.

Each participant will receive a $10 Amazon gift card as thanks.

Representatives from local news organizations in the immediate Providence area have been invited to attend. With questions, please contact lead researcher Rachel Edens at

The Solutions Journalism Network is an independent nonprofit, which supports journalism that examines responses to social problems — in addition to the problems themselves. More information here:

They would also like your help in completing this SURVEY – click here, now:

What is the SJN’s New England Local News Ecosystem Project?

Like the rest of the country, journalism in New England is in a time of transition.

Perhaps most notably, in 2014, The Providence Journal in Rhode Island went through a brutal series of layoffs after being acquired by GateHouse. Just last month, the daily newspaper in Biddeford, Maine (The Journal Tribune) closed after a 135-year run.

But that’s not the whole story. This past April, The Boston Globe announced its expansion of coverage of Rhode Island. A month later, The Globe became the first local newspaper to have more digital than print subscribers. In Vermont, VT Digger is a rising star in nonprofit news. In New Hampshire, a library in Weare started producing a newspaper for their community after Weare’s only daily newspaper shut down. Needless to say, New England is a complicated and robust region — filled with stories of crisis and hope for journalism.

We have a lot to learn about the state of New England news, which is why the Solutions Journalism Network is excited to announce a new effort — the New England Local News Ecosystem Project.

Funded by a grant from the Barr Foundation, the New England Local News Ecosystem Project seeks to understand the issues most urgent to New Englanders, and whether New Englanders say they find the information they need on these issues. The gaps between those two questions could lead to powerful opportunities to improve journalism here. Essentially, we’re trekking around New England and talking to people in different communities to learn about New England’s information needs.

The purpose of this project is two-fold. For starters, SJN wants to serve the needs of journalists and news organizations in the region — and listening to newsrooms and community members will help us do that better. And secondly, we’d like to contribute to the vibrant and growing field of information-needs research. We think local news ecosystem studies like these are so important because they arm journalists with information to better understand and produce stories for the communities they serve.

A few other information ecosystem studies have inspired and guided our work, including this set below:

Over the past several weeks, the group convened focus groups in New England towns and cities to learn about peoples’ information needs, the news they use, and how satisfied they are with these sources of information. Providence will be the last of these groups to be held at this time.

The communities that are being studied are:

  • Maine — Bangor
  • New Hampshire — Laconia
  • Vermont — Montpelier
  • Massachusetts — Lawrence, Chelsea, Pittsfield
  • Rhode Island — Providence
  • Connecticut — New Haven

Choosing to just focus on eight areas in New England was difficult. We looked for a set of communities that would represent the unique set of strengths and challenges of news in New England. To do that, we looked for a range of three primary factors: basic demographics, issues currently covered by local news, and the current availability of local news in each area. We were also careful to include at least one city per state in New England and to respect the large population size of Massachusetts, which is roughly double that of the second most populated state in New England — Connecticut.

We’re excited to share our process with you and to keep you posted on updates along the way. Next up, you can expect a post on how we started to map “bright spots” in newsroom coverage and experimentation in New England.

If you have any questions about our project in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at

This local news ecosystem research is supported by a grant from the Barr Foundation. The Barr Foundation’s mission is to invest in human, natural, and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts. Based in Boston, Barr focuses regionally, and selectively engages nationally, working in partnership with nonprofits, foundations, the public sector, and civic and business leaders to elevate the arts, advance solutions for climate change, and connect all students to success in high school and beyond. For more information, visit or follow @BarrFdn.

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