By DENISE CLAY
When you look at places like the states of Colorado, Hawaii and Oregon, the word “desert” doesn’t usually come to mind because of the lush forests, sparkling water and snow capped mountains in those states.
But a new report says that while these states aren’t home to widespread expanses of landlocked sand, they are deserts nonetheless.
They’re media deserts.
A new report from The Media Deserts Project at Ohio University shows that when it comes to getting good local news, a lot of places around the country are wanting. Like food deserts, places where access to healthy food or in some cases an actual grocery store, are hard to find, media deserts are geographic areas where the fresh local news and information needed to keep the public informed is hard to come by.
This report includes a set of maps that illustrate where the media deserts are in relation to the areas where local news and information is more plentiful. That maps are the medium being used to is no accident, said Dr. Michelle Ferrier, associate dean for innovation at Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication.
“Maps tell stories and the story we hope to tell with The Media Deserts Project is that local journalism is dying in communities across the United States,” Ferrier said. “We want solutions to focus on those communities that are underserved — those that have never had access to fresh, local news and information and those that have become media deserts because of the downturn in the revenues for commercial media. We should focus our solutions on models that don’t rely on advertising and build up local appetites for local news through partnerships with local stakeholders.”
Many of these media deserts were formed when news organizations started cutting staff and in some cases closing their doors, according to the report. About 33,000 journalists have lost their jobs since 2008 and 120 newspapers have been shut down in communities that had no replacement information source. The combination of a brain drain in the form of the loss of journalists, the knowledge they brought and the loss of the news and information functions that these journalists performed has played a large part in forming news deserts, the report said.
The two maps that anchor the report are a map that shows a change in the number of newspapers around the country by zip code and the number of daily newspapers serving a zip code.
For more information on the report or to get copies of the maps, please go to The Media Deserts Project.