This Misinfocon project looks at how the Portland Press Herald, with the largest newsroom in Maine, covers the southern part of the state.
By normalizing the stories with population, we can see the places that get disproportionate coverage (the towns on the right side of the scatterplot). The graph shows us that many sparsely-populated towns get no coverage at all — the cluster at the left edge of the scatterplot. On the other side, we see some outliers that have been getting a lot of coverage, like Ogunquit, a tiny coastal town that’s recently been embroiled in corruption allegations.
We can also see if stories per capita are correlated with other demographic factors. Here, it looks like there isn’t much of a relationship between median income and coverage (yay!). But…
…there also appears to be a negative relationship between a town’s level of support for Donald Trump and the amount of news coverage they get.
Much of this we could figure out: Trump won the small towns by a wide margin, and city papers don’t put limited resources into tiny towns. So yes, there will be a negative relationship. (Also: using Portland and Podunk, Maine as two data points actually does a disservice to the tens of thousands residents of Portland who are reduced to a single data point.)
The authors present a few suggestions about what to do with these results, and I don’t think they’re very helpful ones:
Introspection from within: think about how you’re allocating attention, not just whether facts are accurate
No. Every regional newspaper knows it doesn’t cover Podunk like it covers Portland.
Pressure from the outside: public critique & accountability
No. The last thirty years have been about destroying reporting jobs while introducing more “public critique & accountability” and we’re pretty well fucked as a result, thanks.
Open-source tools to make these analyses easier
Lifehack: If you have this exact sentence in the center of your ONA Talk Bingo Board you’ll always win.
But no. If you want to serve readers in Podunk, what you need are reporters in Podunk.