In early May, the Compass Experiment sent a short survey to about 1,000 people on an email list that was a combination of Longmont Observer supporters and new folks who signed up to receive emails from The Leader.
We wanted to start community conservations before we published a story so that we could learn more about what Longmont readers wanted from us and to share a little bit of what we had in store.
We also wanted to know: What kind of news do you read online; what did you want from a local news site; what did you like most about living in Longmont; and, what were the issues most important to you, among other questions. We got some great feedback from surveys and focus groups, and we really appreciate it.
So what do you read when you go online? The top choice, by far, was local government at nearly 90 percent. That was followed by arts and events at 71 percent, which makes sense given Longmont’s robust creative community. The next two choices were in a near dead heat: politics and business news, each at around 62 percent. Rounding out the top five was watchdog journalism at roughly 60 percent.
Then we asked folks, what is the biggest issue facing you right now? Tops in this cart (see below) were public safety (mostly connected to COVID-19), housing costs, and government services, followed by education and unemployment.
Here’s some of what you told us is the best part about living in Longmont:
- “It's a ‘little big town.’ Still small enough to know everyone but big enough to have all the major amenities that make bigger cities desirable.”
- “That it feels like a smaller community than it is. I love how ‘local’ means something.”
- “The people and culture; the community feeling of togetherness.”
We also asked you what you wanted from your local news source. You were equally willing to share your thoughts!
- “I would like local news to be local, Longmont oriented, not just Boulder County with some Longmont news.”
- “I would appreciate a free, convenient, and consistently interesting online or app based source. Something to replace the role of the local news on cable TV for someone who doesn't watch TV.”
- “Not enough connection to our daily lives; could be doing more to inspire civic engagement.”
From these surveys, we held two focus groups, and the shared sentiment across these groups is that the lack of Longmont-centric news and information was frustrating to the point of feeling disconnected from what’s going on in the community. Residents have had to piece together what’s going on through a myriad of lower-quality sources, like NextDoor, Facebook, and the occasional news story from news outlets based in Boulder or Denver. Not all participants agreed that Longmont is a “news desert” but did agree that its information needs are not being met by current media.
It was also clear that residents want something that covers all aspects of the community - schools, the arts, business, and government, as well as its creative and entrepreneurial spirit.
There was also strong agreement among the focus group participants that bringing people together through events - both informative and fun - would be welcome.
We took all of that input to heart as we designed our website, and began to map out reporting beats and deliver the news.
Since we launched, we’ve delivered a daily, afternoon email of the day’s news and have been posting regularly to social media. We’ve also been hiring new staff, with more on the way!
And, your feedback, and patience, has been very supportive and welcome - as we could only expect from Longmonsters. Here are just two examples:
- “Congratulations on the positive new things that will be added to the new version of The Longmont Observer, now Longmont Leader. I really enjoy the daily articles and updates. It started out in a positive way and has been an asset to the community.”
- “I really like the new Longmont Leader website and coverage. I have especially appreciated the coverage of COVID-19 impacts specific to Longmont businesses, activities, schools and citizens. For example, I had no idea that Samples was closing its doors until I saw the article on Longmont Leader. I really appreciate the focused coverage on Longmont that is being provided thus far.”
Several folks were happy enough with our work, so far, that they signed up to be monthly, or annual, financial supporters of The Leader. That kind of community support — reader contributions, business ads and sponsorships — is what will keep local journalism in Longmont thriving for years to come.
Thanks to those initial supporters, and we hope to earn such trust with many more of you in the months and years to come.
One thing you said was that you wanted more of these conversations. And, we couldn’t agree more. From fun trivia nights to more in-depth conversations about our community, we plan to keep you in the loop every step of the way.
We are planning some additional community conversations — most of them virtual for the moment — to keep listening and to keep us connected. We’ll keep you posted on those events as we’d love for you to join us and help to tell the story of Longmont together.