The Medill Map of Local News Just Got Penetrable

And that's good news for local news providers.

The Medill Map of Local News Just Got Penetrable
Now Medill's map shows which outlets its counting in Ingham County, Michigan. It added a 22-year-old newspaper we pointed out it had missed, but (amusingly) it's missing the outlet I founded and ran for ten years.

By Alice Dreger

Well, well, well. Will you look at that.

Four months ago, my first post for Local News Blues took a close look at what I called “the literally impenetrable Medill map of local news.” 

The map, a project of the Local News Initiative based at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, aims to show the evolving state of local news across America. It’s widely cited as being the local news database – and there’s no doubt it contains more information than you can get elsewhere on this topic. 

But I pointed out in January that the “proprietary” database didn’t show its work. It would not allow a user to click on an area and see which outlets were (or weren’t) being counted. 

Why does that matter? Hiding the data makes it impossible to know if it’s reliable. It also prevents local news providers from sending in corrections, developing collaborations with outlets they might not know about, and being visible to potential funders – like Press Forward initiatives.

Moreover, as I explained in my post, there are reasons to believe the map suffers from numerous omissions. 

I gave an example from my own county, Ingham, Michigan, where the map was clearly not counting The New Citizens Press, a 22-year-old for-profit newspaper dedicated primarily to the Black community of Lansing. I could tell this because the little information available indicated there were no ethnic local news outlets in our county.

Well, the Medill team apparently changed course since then, because now we can see who they are counting in each county. 

And lo and behold, while four months ago the map claimed there were six local news outlets in Ingham, now it says there are seven, and it counts The New Citizens Press among them. 

But wait. Remarkably, the Ingham map does not count East Lansing Info (ELi), the news organization I helped found ten years ago (and retired from last fall), even though ELi is a member of both LION and INN, two major operations from which the map claims to draw data.

Oy. Not a good sign. A cursory search indicates other members of INN also appear to be missing, including AfroLA and Baltimore Witness.

Do me a favor. Poke around your own area of the map, see what you find, and let me know. Go to this page, then scroll down just below the map and choose your state. Then click on the county you’re interested in. (The map can be a little buggy; try hovering all around the county to get it to engage, and reload the page if necessary.) 

Let’s see if we can’t keep pushing for better representation of the facts of our industry.

Alice Dreger is a journalist, historian, and the publisher of Local News Blues. She founded East Lansing Info, a nonprofit digital investigative news service, and ran the operation for about ten years. Read more at the Local News Blues contributors page.