Keeping it Local: A Town Hall Series
After years ravaged by press layoffs, newsroom shutterings, and attacks on the media, the need for a community-driven rescue mission for local journalism has never been more evident. But first, we must understand the problem and collectively reaffirm how integral local news coverage is to the health of a community, both literally and figuratively. In order to begin this conversation and foster public awareness and grassroots advocacy for local news media, PEN America is launching a series of town hall convenings to bring together members of the press, elected officials, and the public to discuss the landscape of local news in 2021.
Building on the momentum of our World Press Freedom Day campaign, this series is meant to provide the public with practical and accessible tools to advocate for the local news in their communities. And at the federal level, we have provided an easy way to write to your members of Congress.
If you are interested in learning more about our local news advocacy and press freedom work, or would like to explore more ways to support your local news media, we would love to work with you. Drop us a line at [email protected].
Trust & Local Journalism in Atlanta
Monday, June 21, 2021
This town hall will address the topic of trust in local journalism in Atlanta, GA. Bringing together key players in the local media landscape, this conversation will address methods of building trust between local reporters and community members in areas where there is historically a lack of trust and lack of transparency between the two. This panel will feature Sonam Vashi of Canopy Atlanta, Willoughby Mariano of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Janis Ware of The Atlanta Voice.
Supporting Regional Journalism in Minnesota
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
This event will bring together journalists, community organizers, and elected officials to discuss what Minnesotans can do to support local journalism in their state. From amplifying local news stories on social media to subscribing to local outlets to lobbying to their elected officials, this town hall will provide powerful advocacy tools to community members interested in supporting their local news outlets. This conversation will feature Mel Reeves of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, Solomon Gustavo of MinnPost, J. Patrick Coolican of the Minnesota Reformer, and Hibah Ansari of Sahan Journal. The panel will be moderated by Jennifer Moore, associate professor at the University of Minnesota.
Ensuring Journalism in Arizona Thrives
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
This event will bring together journalists, community organizers, and elected officials to discuss what Arizonans can do to support local journalism in their state. This conversation will feature Maritza Lizeth Gallego Félix of Conecta Arizona, Irene Franco Rubio, and Katherine Locke of the Navajo-Hopi Observer.
Where Does Pittsburgh Get its News?
Thursday, June 24, 2021
This event will convene with local journalists and media experts as well as elected officials to explore where Pittsburgh residents get their news, how it affects their beliefs and understandings, and consider implications of sources of funding for local news outlets. The goal is to promote dialogue about the landscape of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania news in 2021 and provide tools for the public to engage in citizen advocacy for their local news media. Together, we’ll explore challenges facing local journalism, including community and multilingual outlets, local journalists and activists on their own advocacy efforts, and legislative solutions to the crisis that maintain media independence. This conversation will feature Mila Sanina of Public Source, Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, AmyJo Brown of the Pittsburgh Media Partnership, and will be introduced by poet Tuhin Das of City of Asylum. Nora Benavidez of PEN America will moderate the discussion.
Supporting Immigration Journalism in Chicago
Thursday, August 26, 2021
This town hall, presented in partnership with Borderless Magazine, will elevate the vital work of those local journalists telling stories of immigrants and immigration in Chicago. It will address the challenges these journalists face such as restricted access to official information, resistance from government officials, and broader barriers to elevating immigrant stories in mainstream media. This conversation will feature Diane Bou Khalil of Borderless Magazine, Jackie Serrato of South Side Weekly, and Carlos Ballesteros of Injustice Watch. Maria Zamudio of WBEZ will moderate the discussion.
Representation in Colorado Journalism
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
This town hall, presented in partnership with the Open Media Foundation, will explore representation in Colorado in journalism. Journalists and the stories they write should reflect and reach the communities they cover—unfortunately, this is often not the case. In this town hall, we’ll take a look at the statistics in your city and/or state and explore the disparities in representation: How many BIPOC journalists report for your local newspaper? How many women work at your local radio station? Are there people with disabilities reporting on your nightly news? This conversation will feature Murrow- and Emmy Award-winning international reporter Lori Lizarraga, Tony Shawcross of the Open Media Foundation, Dr. Ryan Ross of the Colorado Community College System, Candi CdeBaca of the Denver City Council, and Sherkiya Wedgeworth-Hollowell of CPR News. Tina Griego of the Colorado News Collaborative will moderate the discussion.
Tell Congress: Support Local News
PEN America and several partner organizations are mobilizing our Members and Americans across the country to use their voice to save local news. Join us by calling on your U.S. senators and representatives to support the Future of Local News Act, which would establish a federal advisory commission to study the decline of local news and propose solutions for the industry’s revitalization.
If you would like to help us spread the word about the Future of Local News Act and/or this series, we hope you’ll check out our social media toolkit to access links, visual assets, and sample copy for you to use in original posts across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Thank you to our series co-sponsors at Free Press!