What’s a ‘news desert’?

We define a news desert as: a community, either rural or urban, with limited access to the sort of credible and comprehensive news and information that feeds democracy at the grassroots level.

University of North Carolina
Hussman School of Journalism and Media
Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media

News deserts, like food deserts, are the result of systemic failures to meet the needs of all communities. Just as an abundance of grocery stores in one neighborhood and an absence of them in an adjacent neighborhood is an inequity, so too, we believe, is an abundance of news coverage in one neighborhood and absence of it in another.

The map below shows how publications are delivered to mailboxes and front doors of each Dallas zip code, based on the most recent audit information available. The dark blue zip codes have the most news saturation (between 10,000 and 16,000 publications delivered); the gray zip codes have the least (less than 500). Because the business models of local news are based mostly on advertising, subscriptions or a combination of both, news saturation in a community inevitably correlates to news coverage of that community.

Dallas Free Press’ community journalism efforts focus on two neighborhoods with gray zip codes: South Dallas (75210, 75215) and West Dallas (75212). Our goal is to illuminate how civic issues affect neighbors personally, and to work hand-in-hand with them to explore solutions and press for equity.

Data compilation and Tableau map creation by Samantha Miller

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