By Cody Switzer
People who regularly follow the news are more likely to be involved in their communities and feel they make a difference, according to a study released by three nonprofits this week.
Those findings were unveiled as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation played host to about 350 community-foundation leaders as part of its annual Media Learning Seminar—an event that pulls together journalism experts and foundation officials for two days of discussions about how foundations can help provide better information to their communities, in part by giving grants to news organizations.
In conjunction with the release of the study, Knight unveiled a “community information toolkit” designed to help community foundations identify problems with news-media coverage and information infrastructure in their cities and towns.
A Scavenger Hunt to Find News
The 51-page document suggests traditional ideas, such as conducting surveys of how well informed local residents are, as well as unconventional ones, such as conducting a “scavenger hunt”—asking people in communities to find certain types of information online
After three tests of the ideas in the toolkit in Macon, Ga.; Philadelphia; and San Jose, Calif., some patterns became clear. Among them: If people believe their community shares information well, they also feel good about their town in general.
“That’s not to say, though, that a lot of people think their government is transparent,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which, along with Knight and the Monitor Institute, conducted the study. “Only about 20 percent of people felt that way.”
Among other findings about people who use the Internet:
- Sixty-nine percent said the Internet made a big difference in their ability to learn new things.
- Forty-eight percent said it made a major impact on their ability to manage their health and that of their families.
- Thirty-two percent get local news from social networks like Facebook.
More in The Chronicle of Philanthropy:
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.