Editor’s note: This is a guest column from Liz White, publisher and executive vice president and 5th generation family owner, Record-Journal Media Group in Meriden, Connecticut. Liz also serves on the Local Media Association board of directors.
The Record-Journal in Meriden, Connecticut, learned the importance of community listening through the Local Media Association Lab for Journalism Funding, which we participated in from September 2020 through April 2021.
As our local Latino communities have grown over the last few decades, we felt it was essential to better understand their news and information needs and get feedback on what the Record-Journal was doing well and where we were missing the mark.
After conducting a five-month initial listening tour, we launched our Latino Communities Reporting Lab (Reportajes de la Comunidad Latina) in March 2021. Even after the listening tour and launch process, however, we knew we had only scratched the surface. So with funding from the Google News Initiative, the Lab embarked on a 12-month in-depth listening, engagement and data gathering project to continue learning about local Latino communities and their information needs.
We hope the Record-Journal’s Latino Communities Reporting Lab Listening Playbook for Actionable News Strategies will serve as a blueprint for media outlets across the country. In many ways, Meriden is a microcosm for the Latino population growth happening nationwide.
10 facts to know from our nine-month in-depth listening project
- In total, 867 responses were collected in English and 1,176 in Spanish.
- Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents were between the ages of 30 and 49. Seventeen percent were under 30, and 35 percent were 50 or older.
- 56 percent of respondents were women.
- By town of residence, 56 percent of respondents lived in Meriden, and another 19 percent lived in Wallingford.
- 25 percent listed another location, with Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury being the next most commonly listed places in Connecticut.
- 46 percent speak a combination of English and Spanish at home, while 32 percent speak Spanish and 22 percent speak English.
- The two most commonly used sources of news for respondents were TV and social media.
- The survey provided a list of 16 topics and respondents were asked to pick their top five. More than half selected education and health. Local events, music/arts/culture, and sports rounded out the top five.
- Similar to the share of respondents who spoke both English and Spanish at home (46 percent), more than 40 percent of respondents preferred content in both English and Spanish.
- Although most people (74 percent) were interested in news at the local level, more than 9 in 10 respondents said national-level news was the most trustworthy.
“I’m always looking for stories that can benefit the Latino community. I see that many locals are looking for local and national news. I try to include some Latin American issues into my reporting, such as mental health, disappearances, politics, and immigration.”– Crystal Elescano, reporter, Latino Communities Reporting Lab
“There is nothing more effective than truly understanding the community that you’re looking to serve. It helps break down the stereotypes. It helps to understand who we are, and it just gives a beautiful perspective about the tapestry of our community that is growing so much in our area and that in a few years it will be probably a majority in the demographics.”– María Campos-Harlow, executive director, United Way of Meriden and Wallingford
“I also really like that our stories are bilingual, because I can share them with sources that have not usually seen themselves represented in news. I talk to a lot of sources that have OK English, but that is not their most comfortable language; or I have sources that I talked to that don’t really speak very much English at all. And so I think it’s very, very cool that I can go back and be like, ‘Hi, this is the thing that I wrote about you.’ And so that they can see their own words in their own language. In print, I think it means a lot to people.”– Lau Guzmán, multimedia reporter, Latino Communities Reporting Lab