Small local communities often face challenges in staying vibrant and connected. In the digital age, the media can be a powerful tool for small communities to transform themselves and become more vibrant. This transformation is not just about economic development but also about fostering a sense of belonging, strengthening social bonds and preserving local culture. Let's explore how small local communities can effectively utilize various forms of media, both traditional and digital, to achieve these goals.
The media can provide great storytelling that enhances the community's identity. The act of storytelling helps residents connect with their past, appreciate their present and envision what their future might hold. Local media of all types can share their narratives. A great example might be the "Humans of New York" project, started by photographer Brandon Stanton. He uses social media to capture and share the stories of individuals in New York City. This project has not only become a global phenomenon but also demonstrated how simple, heartfelt storytelling can help build a stronger sense of community.
Engaging local news and providing access to accurate and timely information is crucial for any community. Local newspapers, community newsletters and online news platforms can play a significant role in keeping residents informed about events, local issues and opportunities for civic engagement. The city of Akron, Ohio, has seen the positive impact of a community-focused news initiative. The Akron Beacon Journal, in partnership with the Knight Foundation, launched the "Akronist" project, which focuses on local news, issues and community events. This initiative has helped residents stay engaged with their community and has fostered a sense of pride in Akron.
The media can provide community building and social connectivity. Through digital assets, including social networking platforms and community websites, they have become essential tools for building and strengthening local communities. Online forums and groups can connect residents who share common interests and concerns, fostering a sense of belonging and collaboration. Nextdoor is a popular social networking platform designed for neighborhoods and local communities. It allows residents to connect, share information and collaborate on local issues. Through Nextdoor, residents can organize events, discuss concerns, and help one another.
Local media plays a vital role in supporting local businesses and driving economic development. Local advertisements, reviews, and features can help businesses gain visibility and connect with their target audience.
While not the only way, the "Shop Local" movement has gained traction in many small communities, encouraging residents to support local businesses. Local media outlets, such as newspapers and radio stations, often run special features and advertising campaigns to promote local businesses.
The media can serve as a catalyst for social change and civic engagement. When local issues are brought to the forefront through newspapers, radio or digital platforms, residents are more likely to get involved in addressing those issues. The Flint water crisis in Michigan garnered national attention through the media. This spotlight brought resources, volunteers and government action to address the problem, illustrating how media can be a force for positive change in a community. The media can raise awareness about pressing local issues and inspire residents to take action. Whether it's advocating for better infrastructure, cleaner environments or more inclusive policies, community engagement can lead to positive transformations.
Small local communities, when working closely with their local media, can leverage the power of media to transform themselves into more vibrant and connected places. Through storytelling, accessible local news, cultural expression, community building, business support and civic engagement, media can help residents strengthen their sense of identity and belonging. Moreover, it can drive economic development, celebrate local culture, and inspire positive social change.
John Newby is a nationally recognized columnist, speaker and publisher. He consults with chambers, communities, businesses and media. His "Building Main Street, not Wall Street," column appears in more than 60 newspapers and media outlets. He can be reached at: J[email protected]. Opinions expressed are those of the author.