New Report Uplifts Community Information Needs in San Francisco, Offers Policy Solutions To Bolster Independent Journalism

Findings show San Franciscans are hungry for more local journalism, including investigative reporting and independent election coverage

SAN FRANCISCO — Today, California Common Cause published Local Voices On Local News: Community Perspectives and Policy Recommendations for Strengthening San Francisco’s Journalism Ecosystem, a new report that uncovers what San Franciscans are saying about their news needs, includes perspectives from independent, locally-owned publishers, and explores public policy solutions that can close the civic information gaps among the city’s most marginalized residents.

The report, known as a community information needs assessment, documents a community listening process California Common Cause undertook over five months to understand San Francisco’s local news landscape and the information needs of its communities. The listening process included over 175 people across the city through 12 focus groups and 26 interviews. 

“Local news is critical to our democracy, and San Franciscans are hungry for more,” said Maya Chupkov, report coauthor, San Francisco resident, and Media & Democracy Program Manager at California Common Cause. “Residents want good, honest news that is rooted in their community and covers the issues that matter to their everyday lives. While this report focuses on San Francisco, it aspires to be a model for other communities in the Bay Area region and beyond.”

The story of local news in San Francisco tracks with the larger narrative of local news across the country and the world: with the business model broken by the internet, saddled with debt, acquired and bled dry by hedge funds, newspapers have shuttered or lost nearly all of their reporters. The newspapers that remain produce significantly less original reporting, and the growth in digital and other startup outlets has not nearly kept pace with the loss. This has broadly led to a massive information gap across communities and a decline in civic engagement over time. 

While community listening is the main focus of the report, it also includes the voices of independent publishers who are members of the Bay Area Independent Community Media Coalition, a group led by California Common Cause to explore ways to work collectively to bolster the city’s local news ecosystem through cooperation and policy advocacy.

California Common Cause connects what the community is saying about information gaps with the report’s policy recommendations, which include: 

  • Increasing city government advertising in community and ethnic media. This will require dedicated effort to streamlining the city’s processes to make them simpler for city staff and local publishers to navigate.
  • Hiring a full-time liaison to streamline the city’s advertising processes. This will make working with ethnic and community journalism outlets on advertising initiatives more efficient and easier to navigate among city staff. It will also make advertising opportunities more accessible to local news providers. It also recommends that liaison develop a directory of community and ethnic journalism outlets. 
  • Improving the city advertising process. Our research found that city staff have many of the same complaints about the system that publishers do. They too want to make the process easier and want to advertise in local outlets that better reach San Francisco’s marginalized communities.

California Common Cause, San Francisco State University, and members of the Bay Area Independent Community Media Coalition will be putting on a public event to share the findings of the report on March 13 at 6:30pm at 518 Valencia. More information about the event will be shared on California Common Causes’ social media channels. 

Read Local Voices On Local News: Community Perspectives and Policy Recommendations for Strengthening San Francisco’s Journalism Ecosystem.

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