Morgan Bird

Morgan Bird

Photo courtesy of: Scripps College of Communication

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ZipIt.News launches in 20 Southeast Ohio counties

Local projects build news, information and dialogue in media deserts


Building on the work of the Media Deserts Project of Ohio University, the Zip-It News online community and news site (ZipIt.News) has launched in 20 Southeast Ohio counties, providing a news and information channel for local communities and villages lacking peer-to-peer and government dialogue.

The project, funded through grants from the Online News Association and the Democracy Fund, is creating media innovations in rural Ohio communities using two experiments – an online community to bring transparency and dialogue to local conversations and a news postcard that is delivered to every household in the Meigs and Morgan County communities working with the project.

Dr. Michelle Ferrier, principal investigator for the Media Deserts Project, developed the communication solutions with community leaders and through the digital innovation work of her students at Ohio University. Through the Media Seeds Project grant, students worked to examine the assets of the region and understand the challenges of rural media deserts. Students developed social media, news and information and health communication strategies for more than 20 rural Ohio counties. Dr. Laura Black of Communication Studies is working with the Media Seeds Project, helping to evaluate the impact of the community solutions.

ZipIt.News is an online platform for community dialogue. Users can share stories, photos, events and share needs and gifts with others in their ZIP Code. Local civic leaders can post meeting information and notes, and create collaborations around regional issues. And the platform acts as a local information hub, sharing what local residents know and have with neighbors.

“The Media Seeds Project is about designing unique communication solutions for communities,” said Ferrier. “And we are helping them to connect with each other as the direct source of local news and information in places that lack fresh, local news and information.”

For Southeast Ohio, broadband access continues to be a challenge for receiving mobile news and information. So the strategies being tested use print, online and mobile strategies to ensure local residents are reached.

E.W. Scripps School of Journalism graduate Matt Morris of McConnelsville is the site manager for ZipIt.News and is working with civic leaders in Meigs and Morgan counties to develop an open government platform for small community governance. He’ll also be posting details about village council meetings and other community information. Morris took a class in digital innovation with Dr. Ferrier in the spring, and saw the needs in his hometown for more government transparency and dialogue.

“I came to realize that I could make a difference with the idea I was developing,” Morris said. “People need more information to help the community grow.”

The postcard format is an experiment in direct mail news delivery. The postcard stories link via QR code and the web to the online platform. Users are encouraged to use social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and hashtag their posts with their own ZIP code. ZipIt.News will be curating and aggregating social media feeds to share back on the site.

“One of the conversations we will be helping to grow is bringing broadband access to rural Ohio,” Ferrier said. “Our strategy is to connect the local activists working on this issue.”

For more information on the Media Seeds Project/ZipIt.News, contact Dr. Michelle Ferrier at michelleferrier@gmail.com.