Authors and media specialists Christopher Ali (Farm Fresh Broadband) and Jennifer Lawless (News Hole) share their work and discuss the many challenges to open access to local news, including struggling newspapers, limited coverage of local government, and a widening divide between rural and urban broadband access. (Ali is also on the board of Dexter Auction,)

In conversation with Jim Brady of the Knight Foundation. This program is part of the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry.

This is a free, virtual event on Thursday, March 17 at 10 am.

To attend, please register here or make plans to watch on The video recording from this event will also be available to watch after the event concludes, on The Virginia Festival of the Book is a program of Virginia Humanities.

This event will offerclosed captions and an accompanying live transcript using Zoom’s built-in automatic speech recognition software (ASR). To request live-captioning accommodations, please write Aran Donovan ([email protected]) no later than March 1, 2022. A video recording from this event will be provided soon after completion and an accurate transcript will be available at a later date, at

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Farm Fresh Broadband is a timely contribution providing not only a detailed history of rural connectivity (from electricity to telephony to broadband) but also a much needed outline for a national rural broadband plan.” ―Roberto Gallardo, Director, Purdue Center for Regional Development, C&RE Specialist, Purdue Extension

“Democracy depends on informed citizens – and for generations, America’s rich landscape of local newspapers was an unparalleled source of information on state and local politics. So when media markets transform and local newspapers cut way back on their coverage of state and local issues, the threat to subnational democracy is acute. In an analysis that is at once sobering and compelling, Hayes and Lawless use a wealth of data to show precisely how deep the cuts to local political coverage have been – and how those cuts have in turn reduced Americans’ engagement in local politics. This book is written with a style, voice, and urgency that means that you need to read not just your local newspaper but this book from cover to cover.” ―Daniel Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania

“Two recent parallel trends bode ill for the vitality of grassroots democracy: the precipitous slump of voter participation in local elections and news coverage of candidates and issues. By exhaustively tracking and quantifying these dual declines, the authors of News Hole demonstrate their interconnectedness. News Hole is a scholarly work that yields new and valuable insights for political scientists and journalists, as well as ordinary citizens passionate about nurturing civic engagement.” ―Penelope Muse Abernathy, author of News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?