After serving as an intern in summer 2020, Camryn Allen will join Local Media Association starting Aug. 31 to work on philanthropic journalism initiatives and NewsFuel on a part-time basis as she finishes her senior year at Villanova University. Here are Camryn’s observations about her time as an LMA intern.
By Camryn Allen • LMA Intern
After interning with Local Media Association, I wonder how I ever called myself aware and informed without ever seeking information about what was going on beneath my nose. I try to hold off expectations when entering a new experience, and focus on opportunities that present themselves along the way. LMA was a great setting to explore local journalism, fundraising, sales, marketing, advertising, and learning about people and what moves us to take action. This was one of the most important lessons I took away from my time with LMA and I will forever be grateful for the experience.
I’m not what many people would call a typical millennial. I haven’t used my personal social media accounts in almost a full year and don’t see myself returning to them besides for professional use. When I get my news, it’s mostly through national news television stations, apps, or word-of-mouth. Not to mention that my friend circles of other 20-year olds get most of their news from social media outlets, like Twitter and Instagram. Even though I am not addicted to my phone or social media, I still carried a lot of reservations about local journalism’s effectiveness, ability to connect with, and communicate much value to me and my generation. In a single day, I received all of my answers the hard way during the second-to-last week of my internship with LMA.
A tornado came through my neighborhood on Tuesday, Aug. 4, and my next door neighbor’s home burned down on Tuesday, Aug. 11. Now, what sense does it make that only after a natural disaster and a horrible tragedy, I become loyal to local news in my own town and state where I’ve lived for more than a third of my life? The importance of having information about your community at all times hit me like a punch in the nose. Without utilizing local news outlets, not only was I blindsided, but other members of my community and of other surrounding areas were blindsided in an extremely costly way.
It shouldn’t take a natural disaster for me or anyone else to become invested in local newsrooms. More than keeping our communities informed, local media have the power to redefine, uplift, and challenge our communities when nobody else cares to. But contrary to assumptions, the quality individuals who do this work cannot take on these tasks without our support, our input, and even our donations. A huge challenge that I recognized while working with LMA is that too many of us carelessly group newsrooms that cover local communities, like my home of Middletown, Del., with humongous national news organizations: the dreaded, fake, untrustworthy “Media.”
I realize that local media and the national media are entirely different entities with different objectives, methods, and impacts. I witness and experience the danger of grouping them together everyday, and I know you see it too in various aspects of our societies. Despite this grouping, resources, funding, and audience for local newsrooms serving our communities are suffering, while national newsrooms thrive. And if our community informers are struggling to provide as much quality information and services as possible, we need to understand that our communities are, by default, suffering as well. When, why, and how did news outlets covering local areas, like my home town of Middletown, become equal and just as large and domineering as national media sources? We have to inspect this phenomenon if we are to break the cycle of repeating dark parts of our history and prevent the creation of a dimmer future.
LMA, the tornado, and fire taught me that while both national and local news organizations are crucial to society, only one caters to my best interests constantly, reports on events and people who are close to home, and is there in my times of need. When the tornado ripped through my neighborhood, my national news apps provided none of the information I needed in those fragile moments or within the past two weeks of rebuilding. When my next door neighbor’s home burned down, local journalists from my community were there to tell their story and to spread awareness of a GoFundMe for the unharmed family. I’ve made the decision to include local news sources in my life wherever I live, work, and wherever my loved ones are, because now I realize that being invested in what goes on around me should never be a preference; it’s a necessity.
In attending LMA meetings, calls, assisting with all kinds of projects and tasks, I have learned that local media are in the midst of an uphill battle. However, their objective is not to win while others lose. Local news organizations fight to keep our communities informed, connected, and aware. Whether it’s radio, advertising, newspapers, television, or any other kind of local media outlet, all of them are formed by everyday people who live among us in our towns and cities, fueled by a passion that keeps not only their stations going, but supports people like you and me on a daily basis as we go about our detailed lives.
I have had the privilege to witness the innovation, selflessness, and determination from the individuals who get labeled as a dishonest, money-grabbing, fake “media.” When in reality, these people are very real, with a very potent love for the communities they come from and serve. In a time where the divisions amongst our nation are blatant and growing, local news organizations are needed and working harder than ever to connect us with people at home. Helping us recognize that every person plays a role in our community and bringing us all to the same eye level to treat and perceive each other as humans worthy of dignity and a voice, are not easy tasks. Having access to stories about people and events within a few miles from you demonstrates how our actions matter, and reveals the fact that we are all interconnected, whether we like it or not.
Ask yourself: Why am I so comfortable with so little knowledge about what’s going on where I live, where I work, and where my kids and loved ones spend their time? It has become so normal and deemed sensible that we are only invested in what goes on so physically and figuratively far away from us, concerning people who will never know our names or our story. Why are we not at least equally as concerned about and invested in what goes on underneath our noses, in our neighborhoods, our town halls and council meetings, in the air we literally breathe?
My hope is that people everywhere, especially within my generation, recognize the value of local news and take initiative to put themselves and their communities first by becoming a constant reader, or a subscriber, or a contributor, or even a sometimes donor for their local newspaper, podcast, radio or television station that works so hard to serve us and only us. The water is murky and there’s a lot of reporting, community-building, and other important work to be done. And the saying is that it takes a village.