Finding water in a news desert

Watch recording


Wednesday, April 24, 2024
6:00 PM ET

Finding water in a news desert
Preparing for elections when news coverage is scarce

Virtual panel discussion
6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT Wednesday, April 24

When local news coverage is scarce, how do you find out what’s on the ballot in your community? As legacy news sources struggle – especially in rural areas – information becomes harder to find, and it can feel especially fraught as we prepare to vote. Meanwhile, pink-slime news outfits, which masquerade as local news sources but are funded by political partisans, and social media rumor mills are popping up to fill the void left by downsized or shuttered local news outlets.

Even with these challenges there are still ways you can be informed about ballot initiatives and candidates running for office – including reports on their spending and where they stand on the issues.

The News Literacy Project has invited three experts – Benjy Hamm, director of the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues; Alana Rocha, editor of the Rural News Network; and Brianna Lennon, county clerk for Boone County, Missouri and co-host of the podcast High Turnout Wide Margins – to walk us through how people living in news deserts can prepare to vote in 2024. We’ll talk about obstacles to finding credible information, as well as tools you can use to investigate the who, what, when, where, why and how of the 2024 elections.

About the panelists

Benjy Hamm headshot
Benjy Hamm is the director of the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which researches trends, issues and ideas in rural journalism and gives advice and workshops for professionals. Hamm is a veteran newspaper editor, having led news operations for Landmark Community Newspapers in Shelbyville, Kentucky, as well as the Herald-Journal and the Lancaster News, both in South Carolina.
Alana Rocha headshot
Alana Rocha leads the Rural News Network, a resource hub for newsrooms who are members of the Institute for Nonprofit News. Rocha works with 70 network outlets in 46 states to amplify coverage from rural areas. She was a longtime news and politics journalist in Florida, Kansas and Texas.
Brianna Lennon headshot
Brianna Lennon is the county clerk for Boone County, Missouri. Before she was elected to that office in 2018, she served in the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and also was deputy director of elections in the Missouri Secretary of State’s Election Integrity Unit. She co-hosts the award-winning podcast High Turnout Wide Margins, which covers issues for election administrators and gives insight into election processes for voters.

About the moderator

Hannah Covington headshot
Hannah Covington is the News Literacy Project’s senior director of education content and hosts the video series News Goggles, which provides a behind-the-scenes look at news coverage and journalists’ work. As a journalist, Hannah covered local government and breaking news at the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. She has also written for the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman. Previously, she was an adjunct instructor, working with high school and undergraduate students at Tulsa Community College and the University of Tulsa.

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