Montgomery County, PA: Latinx/Latino Information Ecosystem Assessment
This report is an Information Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) conducted by The Listening Post Collective, a U.S.-based project of Internews, an international media support organization that works with local partners in more than 100 countries to strengthen the capacity of media professionals, human rights activists, and information entrepreneurs to deliver quality, local information and independent media.
The term “information ecosystem” describes the flow of news and information between people, media, and organizations within a community.
We believe that IEAs, such as this one focusing on the Latinx/Latino community in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, are a crucial part of determining how to bolster community-led news efforts, protect residents against misinformation, and ensure equity in media coverage.
The Listening Post Collective, in partnership with Health Spark Foundation, and the Independence Public Media Foundation, conducted this assessment in 2022 to showcase the supply and demand sides of the local information ecosystem, to highlight real perspectives and experiences from people in the community, and to offer our recommendations for how to activate and inspire a healthier information ecosystem for Montgomery County’s Latinx/Latino community in the future.
This document will ideally open a conversation around community news needs and will ideally later lead to some community led ideas and projects to fill important information gaps.
Key takeaways include:
Information needs are persistent and growing. The Latinx/Latino community in Montgomery County is growing, diversifying, and spreading out from suburban city hubs like Norristown. As numbers grow, especially from Mexico, Central America, and South America, there is demand on schools, community centers, and key service providers to open accessible communication channels to provide and receive information.
Multi-channel and offline content are needed. Most Latinx/Latino residents currently living in Montgomery County need information in Spanish, and many of them need it not just in digital formats but also via print, like flyers and posters, and via in-person forums. While the exponential growth of young, digitally native, bilingual Latinx/Latino residents may shift this need over time, many in the older generation, as well as newcomers, still need vital information in Spanish and offline.
Local matters. Latinx/Latino residents are not satisfied relying on nearby Philadelphia-based media to meet their information needs. Community members want to develop their own bilingual channels to document what’s happening, share important local news, and create wholistic narratives that can uplift residents and build civic power.
Effective communication relies on trust. Language barriers, concerns around immigration status, and mixed experiences with local service providers affect the willingness of the Latinx/Latino community in Montgomery County to engage with various sources of information and information providers. And, while the community relies heavily on Facebook, they can also be victims of and are wary of misinformation and disinformation in that space.
It’s not just about translation. Some county and city agencies, including police departments, hospitals, and schools, have increased their Spanish-language services over the past decade, although many still rely on translation services via phone to fill in the gaps, or don’t provide information in Spanish at all. Part of the ongoing need, however, is not just Spanish language services, but having trusted Latinx/Latino community voices included in these professional spaces. There are also few Latinx/Latino elected officials in Montgomery County, which means residents feel like they are not represented by people who understand their unique needs and experiences.
Community-led organizations hold key connections. Local service organizations partially fill this void. ACLAMO, CCATE, and Unides Para Servir Norristown are experienced in creating trust and collaborating with the community to provide and co-create a diverse array of needed in-person services.
HealthSpark intends to partner with local Latinx/Latino-led groups to share this information more broadly with residents, policymakers, funders, and other stakeholders in 2023.
To view the full report, click the link titled "Montgomery County, PA: Latinx/Latino Information Ecosystem Assessment."