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Media Deserts project at Ohio University unveils national map

Jun 16, 2015


Media Deserts Project at Ohio University unveils national map

Data reveal areas that lack daily, local news coverage

ATHENS, Ohio (June 16, 2015)—A new interdisciplinary initiative at Ohio University today released the first of several geographic information system maps of the United States that identifies which areas of the country are underserved by fresh local news and information. View the full-resolution, digital map at

The Media Deserts Project, a collaboration of the Scripps College of Communication and the Department of Geography that launched this spring, uses state and national-level maps to visualize the number and circulation of daily and weekly newspapers, the coverage areas of hyperlocal online news sites, and the reach of other emerging media to identify communities that may lack local news.  

Since 2008, more than 120 U.S. newspapers have gone out of business, while cutbacks at others have reduced the kinds of civically worthy, labor-intensive journalism residents depend on to stay informed about their communities. A July 2011 report by the Federal Communication Commission summarized losses in the local media space and estimated it would take between $265 million and $1.6 billion in additional dollars to fill the current gaps in local reporting.

There is currently no national map of the effects of newspaper cutbacks on local access to information. To satisfy the information needs of communities requires both identification of communities in need as well as targeted, locally-grown solutions. The Media Deserts Project engages community stakeholders to imagine new solutions for fresh, local news and information.

“Through the visualizations and other methods, we’re identifying communities in need, looking at local assets, or helping to grow capacities for news and information,” said Dr. Michelle Ferrier, principal investigator for the project and associate dean for innovation at the Scripps College of Communication. Ferrier has championed solutions such as government/private partnerships and a media service corps concept being touted in a new report being released today at the Engage Local journalism conference sponsored by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. 

“By identifying media deserts, we can offer to audit community media assets, begin a dialogue with local stakeholders, and build the capacity for local news and information that serves local residents.” 

The Media Deserts Project is an interdisciplinary project of the Scripps College of Communication and the Geography Department at Ohio University. The project uses geographic information system mapping and other methodologies to determine local access to fresh news and information. For more information, visit or contact Dr. Michelle Ferrier at (740) 593-9860 or