Breakout 6, Day 1: The Information Needs of ‘A’ Community

Day 1: Resnick & Jones

The Information Needs of A Community Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008 Aragon Room

Leader: Mitchel Resnick, M.I.T.  Scribe: Nancy Jones, Community Foundation of Broward

In today’s world:

Information is:

  • provided immediately –

  • and expected immediately –

    • email returns

    • phone calls

  • everything is on demand – instant information gratification

As a result:

  • we get too much – too fast – becomes overwhelming

  • people self select what information they intake

Avenues for civic engagement:

It was felt by the group that we need to change the ways people become engaged in communities and that we need to provide opportunities for them to become engaged and how they discover opportunities for engagement. To do that, community foundations need to provide them with relevant and timely information.

Mass Media v. all the rest

Mass media is too generic, as people who take in information; we get the same story from multiple sources. Other voices are left out.

Mass media is general. Mass media does not include thoughtful subjects.

This is not reflective of demographic shifts happening in communities.

While stories are general, there is a greater need for diversity

Thoughtful and/or experienced journalists are few and far between. There is no one filling the honest broker role. There is a lack of “hungry” reporters.

The lack of information need filling mass media has resulted in the development of other news and information sources.

People are taking matters into their own hands.

People are developing own lists to distribute information to.

People choose their own sources of information.

People are gravitating towards hyper-local information. They express need and value in this type of information. The belief is that the more hyper-local the information is – the more often that people will source it.

Local news outlets not covering local news

No place to go to find local issue coverage

Articulation of what is helpful and needed

Hyper local information is thought to be useful on its own and an effective way to keep communities informed – but leaves us with the need for someone to aggregate the information and provide relevancy and space for reflection.

Who is aggregating and extrapolating to the broader community? And if no one, what can funders do to insure that it is done.

Who is playing role of synthesizer?

Access (the issue formerly known as the digital divide)

Once the information is aggregated, we are faced with the issue of access. Are we further disenfranchising residents of our communities by rewarding those who are fluent users?

Additional information needs in our community:

  • Something/one to break down the systems in the community (schools/government/) for average citizen – today, people only seek out information when they have a need and express frustration and difficulty

  • Calendar information

  • Information needs to go beyond the neighborhoods

  • Source that aggregates the blogs

  • Ability/place to dialogue on the issues

  • Greater space for reflection

  • Vetting of information – avenue to accomplish this

  • More diverse voices

  • Types of fluencies to understand – to care about – to sort through the massive amount of information that is out there

  • How to make information more meaningful

Occurrences as result of an uninformed community:

We are faced with challenges such as:

  • How to we develop interests in things that people are not interested in – due to self-selecting or information sources?

  • Issues that are identified as neighborhood issues become silo-ed

  • Mass media dumbed itself down to reach/appeal mass market

  • Information needs are segmented – by their personal needs/wants

    • Media can appear as “noise” to those who do not understand issues/events


  • People will drill down and source out all kinds of information about things that they are passionate about – food, school, etc…

  • “New voices” have credibility – without the benefit of layers of editors, fact checkers, etc…

  • People are self-selecting media – what they listen to and watch

  • Diminishment of broad interests

  • Awareness of “the stuff” that is out there – but how do people find it?

  • Demand for broader information may be diminished

Potential Solutions:

  • Local journalists can/should tell stories that articulate information that a community needs

    • Requires investment/investigation

  • Analog radio going digital

Online Sources