Home / Industry News & Reports / Assessing a Local Latino Community’s Info Needs


Participants in group workshops said community organizations were among the most relied-upon sources for information on issues they care about. (Photo from “Más Informacíon”)

How do immigrant Latino communities get information they need and can actually use, and how can the best information delivery systems be designed?

Journalist Madeleine Bair, founder of Oakland’s El Tímpano, a “two-way reporting platform that will engage and inform local Latino immigrants,” just completed an information needs assessment of the Latino community in Oakland to help her answer those questions and refine the work that El Tímpano will be doing. In “Más Informacíon,” the study she completed with support from the Listening Post Collective, Bair reports on her findings. Bair and others surveyed or spoke with more than two dozen community leaders and approximately 300 residents of the California city for the study.

Spanish-speaking residents, as well as Guatemalan residents of Oakland who speak Mam, told interviewers that they don’t have enough information, don’t know where to get information, and often receive information that doesn’t help them to take action or make decisions in their lives. Regular TV and radio news sources, they said, were often too negative or sensational, and sometimes untrustworthy. What did residents want to hear about?

In workshops, participants discussed the issues that were most important to them. Education, health, housing, employment, and the illegal dumping of trash in their neighborhoods were always at the top of that list. Participants said they wanted resources and information that allow them to better engage on those issues. Such information could include detailed outlines of policy proposals, guidance on how to sign their children up for summer classes, and what to do if they are injured at work.

For now, the study stated, community residents follow local issues through “trusted community institutions such as churches, schools, grassroots organizations, libraries, and community health clinics.” There is no central source of important local information that they might need, say, during an emergency.

Many channels used for crisis response by municipal agencies and civic organizations, such as email, Twitter, and NextDoor, are not frequently utilized by Latino
and indigenous immigrants. Grassroots organizations that do have strong ties to the community by and large lack the capacity to translate, verify, and disseminate information in a timely way. In a region vulnerable to earthquakes and fires, this lack of a central and relied-upon source for Spanish- and Mam-language news threatens the ability to respond to emergency situations, notify Latino immigrants of events and policy updates, and debunk rumors.

What’s more, residents themselves feel neglected by news organizations, in the sense that there are no outlets for the stories, voices and opinions to be heard. “Más Informacíon” reports on a number of solutions that came out of the conversations with local residents, from a Facebook news channel to mobile-based reporting and information to a “community bulletin board.” Read more about the needs assessment and other recommendations in the full study, “Más Informacíon.”