Community Radio and Polarization: Resources and Tools

This article appeared in the December NFCB newsletter. You can subscribe here:


November’s win by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over incumbents Donald Trump and Mike Pence put the nation into a tailspin of conspiracy theories about rigged elections. With such claims quickly disproven, Biden urged healing. But what does consensus look like, practically, when one side says we should listen to the other, which argues we must redo the election because President Trump lost?

Questions about polarization are nothing new for media organizations. But even if media is more active in confronting misinformation, hyper-partisan rhetoric is getting more sophisticated and spreading further due to social media. Unfortunately, the words are more than online posturing; the Digital Forensic Research Lab and others have raised concerns about escalating violence.

Like all media, community radio has had to contend with the allegation it is merely part of a liberal cabal. Despite values of community access and inclusivity, rural community radio stations in particular may deal with harsh criticism simply for their journalism, music programming, or coverage of social issues. How can we effectively address more subtle misperceptions of neighbors and create a more vibrant community?

If you or a local community media organization wants to examine issues such as ideological rifts and disinformation, here are a few ideas:

  • In the coming year, NFCB will be working with Spaceship Media, through the support of the Center for Community Media, on the issue of bridging divides. Their dialogue journalism toolkit may be a way to start local conversations among those who do not agree with the election results or have other political differences.
  • Speaking of our allies at the Center for Community Media, their recent newsletter delved into the complex topic political divisions and a major post-election narrative: voters of color. How was community media engaging these constituencies? Read on to find out more.
  • Curious about the kinds of information that is still circulating in your community about Election Day’s legitimacy? Our friends at First Draft News are maintaining their live insights dashboard related to the elections. Google Trends is also invaluable, because you can search by your state for search terms that are trending.
  • And in case you may feel particularly down about the potential for bringing people together, come back to Barack Obama’s new reflection on the nation’s promise. “Our divisions run deep; our challenges are daunting. If I remain hopeful about the future, it’s in large part because I’ve learned to place my faith in my fellow citizens, especially those of the next generation, whose conviction in the equal worth of all people seems to come as second nature, and who insist on making real those principles that their parents and teachers told them were true but that they perhaps never fully believed themselves.”

Please check NFCB.org for updates on our work with Spaceship Media and more news.

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