SOCO Student Media faces Pueblo's local news desert head-on

Filed in , BY Danielle Whitaker and Hailee Langowski

February 3, 2023
Pueblo Star Journal board member, Gregory Howell, and Danielle Whitaker straighten up the workshop display. Photo by Kim Pluskota.
Pueblo Star Journal board member, Gregory Howell, and Danielle Whitaker straighten up the workshop display. Photo by Kim Pluskota.

Pueblo is a city full of unique people, perspectives and cultures. It serves as a home to a distinctive history of the Steel Mill, as well as the “Chile & Frijoles Festival,” celebrating delicious Pueblo chilis. The downtown is filled with live music and art everywhere, including but not limited to local art studios, Pueblo Arts Alliance, and brewpub, Brues Alehouse Brewing Company. It is also known as the “Home of Heroes,” as four Medal of Honor recipients call the steel city home.

There are so many distinctive stories to be learned and shared. It’s essential to recognize the evolving ways communities can share these narratives. Pueblo has a strong sense of community, and these stories deserve a safe space to be heard. Media should be a safe space, but that isn’t always the case.

Newspapers have been a communication outlet for a long time, but around the country, newspapers are going extinct. Local news and conversations begin to disappear as well as community involvement.

Studies have shown that civic engagement and community connection decline when local news is lost. The primary focus of discussions on how to rethink local media must be with people who do not trust it, do not have access to it or have never had access to it, particularly communities of color, residents of rural areas and those who do not have access to home internet.

There is a need for local journalism to be rethought, changed and evolved.

Photo by Kim Pluskota

SOCO Student Media at Colorado State University Pueblo (CSU Pueblo) acknowledges the need and has created a goal to change local journalism with a grant-funded project called “Real Storytelling.” It is an initiative to collaborate with local voices and help share the real, meaningful stories and perspectives willing to be learned and heard throughout the Pueblo community and afar.

The Department of Media & Entertainment at CSU Pueblo includes SOCO Student Media: The TODAY newspaper, Rev 89 radio station and the Student Media T.V. Studio. All these media outlets intend to collaborate for the Real Storytelling project.

In February 2022, the Department was awarded a grant of $25,000 titled “Diverse Voices: A Community-Based Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Initiative” from the Colorado Media Project and the Colorado News Collaborative. The grant aims to “strengthen connections and build trust between Colorado newsrooms and the diverse communities they serve.”

The Colorado Media Project (CMP) brings together funders, business and civic leaders, journalists and community advocates concerned about the status and future of local news and information in our state. The Colorado News Collaborative (COLab) is a nonprofit, statewide media resource hub and ideas lab that serves all Coloradans by strengthening high-quality local journalism, supporting civic engagement and ensuring public accountability.

CMP and COLab launched News Voices, an initiative for Colorado to work alongside communities, “especially those whose needs and voices have historically been ignored or misrepresented in media — to help repair and strengthen local news.”

The Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Media & Entertainment, Dr. Jon Pluskota, said the grant money is intended to finance “workshops for local stakeholders, community workshops, branding and identity, outreach projects, [as well as] technology and tools for storytelling and support staff.”

SOCO Student Media will host workshops and community dialogues for community members, students and faculty about various topics and stories shared, as well as discussions about education on diversity, equity and inclusion can start a conversation about how to address those issues best together. An advisory board of active members in the community to converse on different ideas and initiatives within local journalism is also a goal for Real Storytelling.

These community workshops will likely provide students and community members with “a prime opportunity to shape who we are as educational programs, how we work and integrate with the community, and how we support the community,” Dr. Pluskota said. “We want this to become the foundation of our identity.”

The introduction to the project and these workshops was held Saturday, Dec. 12, 2022, at the Rawlings Library in the Friends of the Library Room. It was hosted by students involved in The TODAY newspaper: Hailee Langowski, the lifestyle editor and diversity and inclusion manager, and Brenden Vigil, the graphic designer director. The intention of future workshops will continue to be at the Rawlings Library, with dates being discussed.

If you want to share the importance of your story or are interested in how you can be involved with Real Storytelling, reach out for contact information through the PSJ or contact the Dep. of Media & Entertainment, SOCO Student Media, at CSU Pueblo.

<a href=''>Hailee Langowski</a><a href=''>Hailee Langowski</a>

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