When it comes to relevant, reliable news reporting, rural communities across the intermountain West are often left wanting. At best, they have small weekly newspapers staffed by a reporter or two – sometimes three. These towns rarely make headlines in their state’s leading press; unless there’s a wildfire or sensational murder, they don’t show up on the nightly news.

So, how do people living in small communities get news? Which sources do they trust and engage powerfully with? What issues do people care about, and how does that match up against the coverage their local and regional media actually provide?

The Solutions Journalism Network set out to ask these questions in fall 2015, with funding from the LOR Foundation. We focused our study primarily on two regions: the border area including northern New Mexico and southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley; and western Montana.

Key findings:

  • Only one in five people we surveyed in small towns think their local news is consistently relevant and valuable.
  • We found gaps between what people said they’re interested in and the local news coverage they actually get.
  • We heard time and time again that local news coverage is too negative – too focused on crime, corruption, poor school performance – at the expense of other compelling stories about the assets of a community.

Download the full report here.