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Southern Arizona local news initiative announced

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Tuesday, November 28, 2023   

A new project in Southern Arizona aims to support local reporting and enable greater access to local news and information. Earlier this month, civic leaders and the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona announced the Local News Initiative of Southern Arizona.

Jenny Flynn, foundation president and CEO, said the initiative will raise "philanthropic dollars" to help increase and strengthen local news across the region. Flynn said the media ecosystem is changing and contends it's urgent to ensure quality journalism remains a core pillar of our communities and democracy.

"We have to get to the next phase of what will be kind of a media ecosystem that is a little bit more sustainable and hopefully has much more that sort of local perspective infused in it, is something that I think philanthropy is going to play a role in helping that become a reality," Flynn said.

She added the Democracy Fund, a national foundation, awarded a $100,000 grant to kick off the project, which the group is now trying to match with local contributions. The foundation reported Southern Arizona has experienced a disappearance of local journalism jobs leading to "news deserts" in recent years, and Flynn said the first round of grants will go to hiring local journalists for southern Arizona news outlets.

Flynn explained how important it is that people feel seen and heard in the news they consume, which is why she and others strongly believe in the power of local news.

Only 32% of Americans say they have a "great deal" or "fair amount" of trust in the media's news, according to Gallup poll. But a new high of 39% of people say they have no confidence at all.

While there are innovators and entrepreneurs within the media sector challenging traditional models, Flynn is convinced there's still room for further investments and improvements to rebuild trust.

"It is not as though it's a magic wand to undo the mistrust and the polarization we have, but it is very different when someone is your neighbor, or you see someone at every community meeting," she explained. "That is very different from someone who is far away, who is just a name or just a story or just a headline."

Flynn added building up consistent reporting will also make a difference. She invites the public to share their thoughts about their news consumption through a survey available in English and Spanish. She said it's important to think about how organizations can better meet the information needs of Southern Arizonans, a region she calls "very diverse."


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