This story was first published in ProPublica Illinois’ weekly newsletter. Sign up for that here.
A few weeks ago, I asked for your help making a list of where Illinoisans get specific information about their communities and interests. For lack of an actual term to describe the kind of media I was interested in learning about, I made one up: Mediathings.
Mediathings … you know, things like neighborhood newsletters, SMS alerts, Reddit threads, library bulletin boards, even weekly “ladies lunch” meetups.
We’ve heard from a lot of people so far (thank you!) — and I’m going to tell you a bit about some of their responses — but I’m still on the hunt for more suggestions. Read on, and if you can think of some more to contribute, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, respond to this email directly or tweet me @loganjaffe.
- There are a number of independent publications and online groups for specific Chicago neighborhoods, of course. Two that folks suggested are the Uptown Update and the Edgeville Buzz. One that came as a surprise to me — and maybe will to you — is the Bowmanville Bee printed newsletter. If you’re unaware that Bowmanville is an actual Chicago neighborhood, it’s on the city’s north side, bordered by Rosehill Cemetery to the north, Foster Avenue to the south, and between Lincoln Square and Andersonville. Its community newsletter has been publishing seasonally since 1991. Take a look at it here.
- @HartmanMath tweeted me to say, “The Mahomet Daily has been a bastion of transparency for a small town.” Mahomet is a town in central Illinois of a bit over 7,000 people. The Mahomet Daily is an independent publication run by a three-person team. Dani Tietz (owner, editor, writer, designer, sales representative, marketing manager) writes she was formerly on an advisory board of local elected officials but has since stepped down after buying the paper in 2013. In a heartfelt and blunt letter published on the newspaper’s website, she details how she sees her role at The Mahomet Daily and in her community:
”We live in a town where I can almost guarantee you that any reporter has never asked questions other than who, what, when or where. I am gathering that information for you, but I am also asking why and how. I care about your ideas, your hearts, your visions and even your voice. I want to and have celebrated all of our wonderfulness with you. I have also sat with you on the phone, listening to your concerns and felt what you are feeling. These are the issues that have not made it into an article. These are the issues that we all need to work on together.”
- Another reader pointed me to the UIUC subreddit, where students at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign swap information about classes and exams but also pose some on-point questions to each other, such as: “When is it appropriate to give your professor a holiday gift?”, “Anywhere I can get halal?” and “Is living on the first floor safe?”
- Bob, who’s “retired to the middle of nowhere, where the county seat has only 750 souls,” emailed me to suggest I add “good public library reference librarians” to the Mediathing list. He wrote that the library in nearby Princeton has hosted several programs sponsored by Voices from the Prairie that speak to local, political issues. And he makes a good point about librarians’ role as ‘Mediathings:’
“In the sense that journalists create news, good public library reference librarians remember news…and disseminate it as well as provide access. So they are also among the mediathings in “media space” … My more general point is that public libraries - and reference librarians - provide the memory that complements what journalists do. They are unacknowledged brothers and sisters.”
What else? Let me know. And if you’ve already suggested to me Mediathings that you don’t see in this e-mail, know that I have read your messages, and added your recommendations to an ongoing document I’ve been updating. I’m still thinking through with my team what to do with that, exactly. But in the meantime, I’ll keep posting updates.
Talk to you in the new year —