Twenty years ago, Courier & Press had a beautiful building in downtown Evansville with a newsroom full of reporters and copy editors. Today, only five news reporters remain in a single room rented in that original building. 14 News was known for its precision in letting news out to the public for years, but today? Barely any of the articles they publish are free of errors. Local news in Evansville is dying.

The lack of reporting in Evansville has caused a major gap in the local news landscape. What used to be a booming metropolitan of journalism is now a suffering city that can barely receive adequate coverage of major events. This problem is not unique to Evansville, though; cities across the country hurt for lack of local news coverage. However, one University of Evansville ChangeLab aims to fill the gaps in local news: Evansville NewsLab.

The NewsLab team consists of community members and students who are passionate about improving the future of journalism. Andrew Carter, the assistant director of the Center for Innovation & Change, coaches the project alongside community members Guy Sides, Erin Hempfling, and Steve Burger. The two students on the team include junior literature major Emily Palmissano and junior communications and English double major Chloe Campbell. Each team member provides their individual experiences and expertise to form a well-rounded group.

Evansville NewsLab is working closely with partner organizations to increase the impact of the project. The team has partnered locally with Our Times, the only Black-owned newspaper in town. Rasheeda Ajibade, owner of Our Times, is committed to creating a more inclusive news landscape in Evansville; she expressed interest in the NewsLab early on and has led an integral role in its development.

The NewsLab has also partnered with Listening Post Collective, a national nonprofit non-partisan civic journalism organization with the aim of boosting local journalism across the U.S. In the Fall 2023 semester, Evansville NewsLab received a $10,000 grant to fund their research from Listening Post Collective. The grant helped the NewsLab to disseminate a survey, conduct focus groups, and hire a market research and data analysis team.

So far, the team has conducted three focus groups and has appeared at community events, including the Mayor’s Traveling Town Hall, in February. Emily and Chloe have made several connections in the community, such as with the United Neighborhoods of Evansville, where they were able to speak at both the board and general assembly meetings (also in February).

Among the results the team has gathered to share in May 2024, a few key gaps have already been identified. According to the League of Woman’s Voters, not nearly enough political affairs are covered in Evansville, which makes advocating for voting rights even harder. Informing the public is the prime responsibility of the news media, but when the community lacks proper information on where the political standings fall, it cannot make informed voting decisions. In a focus group with friends of Our Times newspaper, a major gap identified was the lack of proper coverage of the Black community from the city’s mainstream media sources.

In addition to those results that Evansville NewsLab has gathered, there exists so much more to unveil. In order to help the project, the Newslab asks of the community to please respond to their survey (using the QR code or the link below) and distribute it also to friends, family, and anyone else interested in revitalizing the local news landscape in Evansville. For more information on NewsLab, our partners, and the project’s projection, reach out on Facebook to “Evansville NewsLab.”

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