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Introducing Infowire: State of Opportunity's newswire

Mar 17, 2014

Infowire fills the information gap and meets the news needs of families struggling to make ends meet. Get all Infowire alerts by texting INFOWIRE to 734-954-4539 or email infowire@michiganradio.org

Credit Lee Summers / flickr

We're in the light-filled sanctuary of Centenary Church in Macon, Georgia. It's a hot October afternoon. Our group of journalists sits in a semi-circle on worn chairs facing a screen for a Skype call with James Hamilton.   

Hamilton, an economist, is in his office at Stanford University. He's sharing with us the work he's done on "the information gap." For years, Hamilton has researched how the media delivers news and who receives it. What he's learned is that, when it comes to getting news relevant to their lives, lower-income people are left out. 

It's not that lower-income people aren't paying attention to the news. In fact, they consume media in similar ways and at similar rates to people who are financially better off. But, news organizations direct their efforts to a "target audience" of middle-income readers and listeners.

That means that whatever the target audience doesn't care about is ignored in the news cycle. This is especially the case for issues important to people in low-income communities.

As Hamilton talked that day, tensions we grapple with at State of Opportunity came into sharper focus. Our job is to help decision-makers, parents, educators, and our audience figure out what's holding kids back in Michigan and what it would take for them to get ahead. Too many of those kids have poverty or statistics working against them

And here's the tension: our public radio audience is mostly made up of middle-income people. Some of you are parents that struggle economically but work to offer your kids a bright future. But we're not sure if our work is providing useful information to you. For the most part, our stories are about people dealing with poverty.

We're changing that and holding ourselves accountable with the launch of our new project. It's called Infowire

Organizations working with underserved communities can send us their thoughts on where a news gap exists. People experiencing an information gap should contact us. What useful or critical information have you received by word of mouth that would be helpful to others? How can the community benefit from information that usually travels from person to person?

Infowire connects those looking for answers to champions in the community working toward solutions. You, or organizations, can subscribe to our alerts, view them on the Infowire site, or receive the alerts via text messages. Forward Infowire to anyone you think could use the information. We'll always ask: was this information was useful? What questions do you still have? 

We're kicking the project off with a simple post of tax season tips we put together with the help of the low income tax payers clinics in Ann Arbor and East Lansing. It's not revolutionary, it's just a post. But it's a change in how we look at stories and what kind of information State of Opportunity provides. 

Get infowire by texting INFOWIRE to 734-954-4539 or sign up here.

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