Statement on Local Media from Davis Media Access

By Autumn Labbé-Renault, Executive Director

May 9, 2024

As the Davis Enterprise continues to recede, something has to evolve as a source of community information and news. We think Davis Media Access (DMA) can offer part of the solution.

With journalistic expertise at staff, board and volunteer levels, we’ve been talking internally about Davis’ growing news drought at DMA for months before the Enterprise made its latest cut — the stunning layoff of Bob Dunning, who wrote a column and sports stories for the paper for 55 years.

(You might have noticed another new hole at the Enterprise, by the way — Bruce Gallaudet hasn’t had a story in the paper since April 28, when he wrote “goodbye, all!” at the end of his story that Sunday. This is a big loss for covering local sports.)

Since last fall, DMA has been developing an idea for a Civic Information Hub—not to supplant local news, but to fill in the gaps in our local information ecosystem. I’ve met with dozens of journalists, elected officials, librarians, educators and other community leaders towards that end. You can listen to a very early discussion about the idea on the KDRT program Davisville, although I want to emphasize the word “early.”

The project has three phases: a community information needs assessment, to be carried out in all four cities in Yolo County; a nascent newsletter to provide key local information while we’re building the plane, so to speak; and ultimately, a multi-year and multi-media local news program involving journalistic training for community members.

For the needs assessment, we’ll engage with stakeholders throughout the community to assess what people here need and want, much like DMA did two decades ago before forming KDRT-LP 95.7 FM community radio. I’m pleased to announce early support from the City of Davis and Yolo County Supervisor Lucas Frerichs towards that end. They have each committed $5,000 towards the $50,000 this assessment phase will require. I’m actively seeking other funding for this phase.

As news of the Enterprise’s latest pullback spread in the last two weeks, stoking a sense of urgency, we began talking about creating a weekly newsletter focused on Davis and Yolo that people could read for free.

The newsletter could include short items linking to local information available elsewhere that isn’t getting the attention it deserves, like:

  • nonprofit news, arts & culture events
  • links to news and information developed by others
  • and some news stories our volunteers or staff will develop ourselves. We have roots in town, and hear information that isn’t getting reported.

We’re still figuring all this out, including what to focus on and how to pay for it. The newsletter would start modestly.

Nor do we want to compete with the Enterprise, which still has some community news, plus reporters who cover local crime and local government meetings.

Honestly, it’d be great if the Enterprise could become again the town square it used to be. But the business model that supported a news, sports and features operation that focused on Davis, with writers, photographers and editors who often won awards for their work, and local commentary and columns — that model isn’t working. I've written a column on community media and media policy there for more than 20 years, and I'm personally saddened by the once-excellent paper's demise.

Social media driven by algorithms isn’t enough. We need people in Davis and Yolo providing fact-based information about our communities, for our communities. We’re pretty sure DMA can help.

It won’t happen overnight, but as the leader of this community media organization, I’ve committed the next year of my life to giving this all I’ve got. More to come.

Autumn Labbe-Renault (she/her) has served as DMA’s executive director since 2007. A former newspaper journalist, she jumped back into local news coverage in 2020 with the COVID-19 Community Report on KDRT.

Bill Buchanan, journalist and host of Davisville, contributed to this statement.

Beginning Friday, May 10, Bob Dunning can be found on Substack