A community conversation about ways to increase access to local news drew about 50 people Monday evening.

Licking County residents from all walks of life came together for the first of at least two forums at the NEWORK Space to discuss how local journalists can best serve the community. The next forum will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at the NEWORK Space at 14 N. Park Place, on Courthouse Square in downtown Newark.

The forums hosted by the TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of the Journalism Program at Denison University, included student journalists and journalists from local media, including The AdvocateGranville SentinelPataskala Standard, and WNKO radio.  

About 50 people took part in the forum to discuss local news coverage. Credit: Doug Swift photo

“At its core, that is what this is all about: community,” said Alan Miller, the former Columbus Dispatch executive editor who now teaches journalism at Denison, in welcoming the participants. “Well-informed individuals make for a stronger community. When we’re well informed, we can make good decisions about everything from how to get across town when authorities suddenly close the Cherry Valley Road bridge to who and what we will vote on a month from now.”

He said that a well-informed community inspires a caring community and a better quality of life for everyone. And news organizations, which are challenged by diminishing resources, need to hear from the community to help set priorities in news coverage.

“We need your help to make sure we’re providing local news coverage that this community wants and needs,” Miller said. “That’s why we, the journalists, are here tonight – to listen to you, understand the community’s priorities and serve this place we all call home as best we can.”

Facilitated by Steve Krak, of Denison’s Red Frame Lab, the conversation on Oct. 10 focused on people in Licking County who might want or need access to local news but find it difficult to overcome barriers to the news, such as cost, lack of time or lack of awareness about where to go for information.

Krak asked participants to use “design thinking,” a process in which they visualize an audience or customer and brainstorm how best to create a product that best meets the needs and desires of that audience – in this case, a news source.

In small groups, the participants worked to identify people from the community who weren’t in the room but they know would benefit from local news. One group, for example, envisioned a 30-something mother of two children who is busy with work, keeping her kids clothed, fed and on task with school work. Her biggest barrier to accessing local news, they said, is time.

The first community forum on local news coverage was held at NEWORK Space on Newark’s Courthouse Square. The second will be held there at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15. Credit: Doug Swift photo

Another group identified a 21-year-old single man who works in construction or a local factory, owns a pickup truck, hangs out locally with his friends and would be interested in knowing more about things to do, in addition to other local news. But he doesn’t know where to find that news or how to access it.

The next step in the conversation is to brainstorm ideas about how to reach those people and others in Licking County who likely would appreciate local news and reduce or eliminate the barriers between them and news or information that would help them navigate daily life here.

That conversation will happen on Nov. 15. Those who would like to join the conversation can register for the forum at bit.ly/news-forum-LC-session2.