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 from consolidation and changes in ownership, acquired and bled dry by hedge funds, newspapers have shuttered or lost nearly all of their reporters. These trends are even worse across the nation. 

In light of this, there is a growing awareness that local news is necessary for democratic participation, for functioning and accountable local government, and for healthy and engaged communities. News organizations are beginning to reckon with their legacies of racial discrimination and harmful coverage, and they’ve begun listening to and engaging with communities in new ways, rethinking what news is, who can make it, and how it can be delivered.

This Community Information Needs Assessment was built on extensive and careful listening. California Common Cause helped facilitate 12 focus groups in English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Tagalog, in partnership with community-based organizations, and had over a dozen conversations with community news publishers. Responses were assessed for themes and categorized according to barriers to and concerns around getting local news and information. Public policy solutions aimed to close the civic information gaps in San Francisco were discussed, as were opportunities for longer-term partnerships and collaboration. Through this process, we hoped to capture the knowledge and experience of residents while informing our policy recommendations in a way that most appropriately meets the needs of San Francisco’s diverse community.

While this report focuses on San Francisco, it aspires to be a model for other communities in the Bay Area region and beyond who wish to do similar studies and to strengthen the community-based local news that helps all of us thrive.

READ: Local Voices on Local News: Community Perspectives and Policy Recommendations for Strengthening San Francisco’s Journalism Ecosystem

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