GULF SOUTH INDEX: Local News: Meeting people where they are
July 8, 2021
Fair and accurate dissemination of information is a hot button issue. Who people trust to deliver this information is an important part of the narrative. A recent Politico opinion piece by Jack Shafer says local news is collapsing and that readers are to blame for the downfall. The article also suggests that there is just not enough local news to cover to make it of value to readers.
While this may be the case in some areas of the country, data from the Gulf South Index reveals that local news is still more than relevant in our region and that people in the Gulf South place a higher level of trust in local news sources than in national news outlets. Here, we rely on local news for the information we need to go about our day – it is part of the fabric of our communities.
Shafer points out that local newspapers of yesteryear are missing the fact that they have a “demand” problem. Newspapers in different parts of the country aren’t delivering the local news that people, especially young people, are looking for in their community.
Maybe this isn’t a “demand” problem, but more of recognizing where the “demand” actually resides. We may not be buying the newspaper in the same way that our parents or grandparents did, but in places like the Gulf South, we still pay attention to the news that the daily newspaper provides. We’ve shifted where we are getting the information from. In New Orleans and south Louisiana, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate continues to publish written newspapers daily with broad readership. More striking is that nola.com – the digital home of The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate – is the most visited news website in Louisiana. This is evidence that local newspapers remain vital in gathering and telling the important stories people care about.
In the Gulf South, we also continue to watch local television over the air and online. The articles we share on social media come from local news sources.
A basic rule of economics is that – as a market consolidates at the top, openings emerge underneath it. Maybe, some don’t read the newspaper like they used to. However, the demand for the news traditional newspapers provide is still there and being consumed and shared in new ways.
It isn’t a demand problem. It’s recognizing where the demand lives and meeting people where they are. This applies to the companies and institutions with stories to tell, as much as it does to the journalists who produce the stories themselves.
Newspapers in the Gulf South are evolving and meeting their readers where they are: on their phones, tablets and computers.
WE ARE PAYING ATTENTION
Since the onset of the pandemic, more people are reading the news and with more scrutiny, according to The Global Media Landscape report by Global Web Index.
Emerging news sources and an increase in misinformation make it hard for people to know who to trust. What has always been viewed as a tried-and-true source for credible, accurate and fair information has been our traditional, local news media. Local outlets are reporting on the information that we need to make informed decisions in our communities and in our households. From weather and traffic reports to events happening and decisions being made by our local elected officials, the information we receive daily from local news outlets directly influences our decision-making.
“The headline here is ‘being local and knowing local is more important than ever,” said Marc Ehrhardt, president of The Ehrhardt Group. “What we see is that people are looking in larger numbers toward local sources for information because this information has direct impacts on their lives.”
WE BELIEVE IN BUSINESS
The business community ranks highest in the trust department when it comes to disseminating information. In the Gulf South, 62% said they trust the business community’s information, with the number rising to 67% nationwide.
This presents a great opportunity for businesses to build better relationships with the communities they serve. This local, dialed-in audience offers businesses and organizations the chance to create clear, trusted messaging – not only about products and services – but about what they believe and why they open their doors every day, further solidifying consumer loyalty and trust.
Because of the distinctiveness of the Gulf South, messaging can be tailored so that it clearly connects to what makes us tick as a region. All of this speaks to the need for businesses and news organizations to have a better understanding of the local audience. It also points to the need for these information sources to be accountable for the information they push out. We are putting a great deal of trust in them, and they have a responsibility to deliver.
The trust that people in the Gulf South have in local news outlets and businesses for information is worthy of a bold headline. Local news is still alive and well in our region. It’s just a matter of meeting people where they are.
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HOW DID WE FIND THIS STUFF OUT?
The Gulf South Index is a cooperative project between The Ehrhardt Group, a public relations, content, issues and crisis firm, and Causeway Solutions, a nationally recognized research and data analysis company, that are both based in the Gulf South.
The Index delves into hundreds of thousands of data points to paint a better picture of how the millions of people living in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle are going about their lives. We want to find out more about how we make decisions, from what we are buying and how we are getting our news to where we plan to travel.
Causeway Solutions and The Ehrhardt Group conducted a series of online surveys, each of 1,443-1,500 adults with a margin of error of 2.5%. Surveys were conducted on February 25, 2021 and March 16, 2021.
We cannot comment on the methodology of the surveys and research we did not conduct, which is why we do our best to link to the source articles or studies that we share here.