Part One

Trusted media sources in your community

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Whom can you trust? That’s becoming one of the most important questions of our time, and the answers may well decide whether we can preserve our democracy.

You should make your own decisions on trust. We’d like to suggest a few organizations and people at the local level who are likely to have earned your trust, based on their longstanding practices.

We start with libraries. These essential community-based organizations exist to help people find information. Some of it is entertainment, as in a good novel or video thriller or music CD. But the librarian’s job is also to help us find useful information that will help us lead our lives more productively.

If your community is large enough, you can get news from a newspaper — you probably do this online unless you’re one of the shrinking number of subscribers to paper editions — and/or local broadcasters.

A new trend in local media includes local websites, such as blogs or more extensive sites, that are springing up around the country to serve areas that traditional journalism has abandoned or never covered in the first place. Whether the journalism is traditional or new, some deserve more trust than others. You need to know how to decide how much trust you want to give them, and using our principles will help you decide.

Another interesting development in local information is online conversations. In our introduction, Dan talked about his small town’s private Facebook group. These exist very widely, but they’re not alone in serving as community conversation centers. The value of these forums is entirely determined by the people using them, but especially the people who moderate the conversations. Online conversations can disintegrate into trolling and vitriol far too easily unless someone, or a team, have clear rules of the road and enforce them.

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Online conversation platforms:

  • Front Porch Forum

    Front Porch Forum

  • Facebook

    Facebook groups

  • Discord

    Discord servers

  • Reddit

    Reddit subreddits

Online sources of local information also include people and institutions that play specific roles in the community. Businesses are likely to offer websites or pages on Facebook. Your local, county, and state governments are likely to provide extensive information. This includes information for voters, business data, social services, and much more. Keep in mind that this information is not the same as journalism. Being at least a little skeptical of what people say about themselves is always a good idea unless you have evidence to back it up.