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Twitter Creates Hashtag To Support Journalists And Local Media | Voice Of America

Hundreds of cities in the United States have lost their local newspapers in the last decade, distancing readers from quality journalism focused on issues specific to their region. The spread of so-called “news deserts” occurred at the same time that social media became a popular way of accessing information and, more recently, during a rise in misinformation. Twitter is trying to correct that balance through its #FollowLocalJournalists initiative that seeks to promote and highlight the efforts of local journalists and their impact on the community. Launched on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, the hashtag is part of a larger project to support local media. The social media platform seeks to “highlight, elevate and support local journalism, which is a vital resource for communities around the world, especially now for people seeking information on COVID-19,” according to a statement that Twitter shared with the Voice of America. An ad campaign featured in 28 local newspapers last week directed readers to lists of local reporters to follow. The campaign includes newspapers for cities such as Detroit, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, Miami, Kansas City and Cincinnati. “Local journalists are largely people who care about their communities and care deeply about the work they do,” Michael Perry, senior director of content news for The Cincinnati Enquirer, one of the newspapers involved, told VOA. “It is good to see journalists treated in a professional and respectful manner, with recognition of the great work that is being done in communities large and small.” McClatchy, owner of 30 American newspapers, files for bankruptcy McClatchy, owner of 30 American newspapers, files for bankruptcy Report for America, a program in the United States that supports local media by placing journalists in newsrooms, also received with I like the initiative. Its marketing and public relations manager, Sam Kille, told VOA that Report for America “loves the fact that Twitter is shedding light on local journalism because it is local reporters who will tell you what is happening within your own community. “. “Being able to go online and get a list of local reporters that you can follow just makes it easier to get that information,” Kille told VOA. Threats to local journalism The Twitter initiative comes during a decline in local media. A 2020 study from the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that 2,100 newspapers have closed in the United States in the past 15 years, leaving 1,800 communities that had local outlets in 2004, with none in early 2020. Lack of information within these communities can have a severe impact, media analysts say. “The truth evaporates in news deserts,” Kille said. “In the absence of reliable local news sources, people are inundated with misinformation or partisan news. They are not finding out what is really important to them.” Perry of The Cincinnati Enquirer highlighted how journalists serve their communities by mining data, reviewing public records, asking tough questions and holding public officials accountable. “Most of us view journalism as a public service, a passionate calling to tell stories, educate, illuminate the good and the bad,” Perry told VOA by email. Report for America’s ‘Crisis for Our Democracy’ Kille also believes that local journalism plays an essential role. “The local news crisis is a crisis for our democracy,” Kille said. “When people don’t have reliable news sources within their own communities, they don’t look at their neighbors in the same way.” The decline of local media came alongside the rise of platforms like Twitter and Facebook. A 2020 report from the Pew Research Center found that about half of the 9,220 Americans surveyed say they regularly receive their news from social media platforms. Using social media to access news can have both positive and negative impacts on local journalism, Perry said. “There is no question that it has been useful in terms of sharing legitimate content. We understand that we can reach audiences on various social media platforms,” ​​Perry said. At the same time, he added, social media can be harmful by spreading misinformation and can lead to attacks on journalists. At a time of growing misinformation, Twitter’s efforts to raise the voices of local reporters are seen by some as an important step. The Pew Center reports that Americans who mostly receive news from social media are less informed about current events and are more likely to be exposed to misinformation. It obtained data from 10 surveys of more than 9,000 adults about their media consumption habits between November 2019 and November 2020. “The new Twitter campaign is a great start to raise more awareness among local journalists and create a path for them to people follow local journalists, “Kille said, adding that there is more work to be done. “We would love to see Twitter expand this reach beyond those larger newspapers to other newsrooms across the country,” Kille said. The social media platform is also helping journalists connect with the public through the use of Twitter Spaces, where users can join conversations hosted by reporters from around the world. “As journalists continue to selflessly report from the front lines of conflict, in the face of hostile interests and, especially over the past year, risking their personal health to cover a global pandemic, we believe it is critical that they and their industry receive support.” said the Twitter statement emailed to the VOA. Report for America also has initiatives to boost local journalism. Last month, it announced that it had placed 300 people, 45% of whom are journalists of color, in more than 200 local newsrooms. Connect with the Voice of America! Subscribe to our YouTube channel and activate notifications; or, follow us on social networks: Facebook, Twitter

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