Evaluating and bolstering the quality of local visual news in regional Australia

Project dates: 2023 - 2025

Overview

Journalism is vital to the public good, but regional and remote communities lack the same access to local news as their urban counterparts. This is especially true for local visual news, which is often an afterthought despite its importance in creating high-quality news content, engaging audiences, and shaping public perceptions. 

This groundbreaking, nationally comparative project’s major innovation is that it observes local journalists at work and evaluates their output against the needs expressed by their communities, thus facilitating a much-needed conversation between local journalists and audiences. In doing so, it defines what quality local visual news is, and through local newsroom briefings and events co-hosted with industry provides guidance on how journalists can best produce it. 

Directly informed by local perspectives, this best-practice guidance is immediately actionable and serves to boost local newsrooms’ sustainability. This helps regional and remote Australia see itself in the news it consumes, enhances local communities’ democratic resilience, and leads to a strengthened national identity.

Research activities

The project addresses the following central question: ‘What is the volume and quality of local visual news in eight key regional and rural areas across Australia?’

In particular, it investigates:

  1. The respective volume and quality of centralised generic, local crowdsourced, and local professional visual content on regional news platforms by important publishers in eight key geographic areas;
  2. The work practices of the journalists who create, edit, and publish local visual news, including how they decide when and why they integrate crowdsourced or centralised visual content into their reporting;
  3. The expectations regional community members have of their local news producers, and to what extent the local visual news content consumed by them meets these expectations.

By doing these, the project then generates recommendations to safeguard and reinvigorate the quality of local visual news, directed at industry, government, the local communities themselves, and journalism educators and academics.

Methodology

The project begins with a media analysis of the local visual news published on the websites and/or social media pages of the eight outlets under study. It continues with community visits to allow for observations of and interviews with local journalists. Concurrently, community members will be invited to participate in a digital diary study to allow an understanding of how they encounter and react to visual news in their local news outlets and/or on social media platforms. Community members will also be invited to share their expectations about local visual news. After these phases and armed with the insights from the media analysis, the diary study, observations, and interviews, a community reflection and dialogue event will take place in each site to facilitate community-wide discussions about the quality of local visual news in the regions and how to ensure quality journalism’s sustainability into the future.

DMRC research program

This project contributes to the research within the following DMRC research programs:

DMRC research groups

This project contributes to the research within the following DMRC research group:


Funding / Grants

  • ARC DECRA Fellowship (2023 - 2025)

Chief Investigators


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