Changing the Way We Think About Community and Media

  • COLab is an independent, nonprofit, statewide journalism coalition, media resource hub, and ideas lab. We serve all Coloradans by strengthening high-quality local journalism, supporting civic engagement, and ensuring public accountability.

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When Silvia Solis moved to Longmont four years ago, she and her husband were expecting their first child.

“My family was so far away,” she recalls.

She felt isolated. Lonely. Silvia grew up in Mexico City and has lived all over the United States. From Laredo, Texas, to New York City to Denver.

“I had to figure out my community,” she said about making Longmont feel like home. “That led me to think about the value of community. From there, I realized how disconnected people are. Even in their own hometowns, people feel disconnected.”

So Silvia set out to do something about that. As a journalist by training, she became a bilingual community correspondent for the online news site, The Longmont Leader. The way she approached that job tells you how she thinks about the relationship between local news and the communities it serves:

My role goes beyond simple storytelling, I am a cultural broker between local media and the community that surrounds me. I hope to elevate local stories; to be a listening ear and to help convey an idea of what the people in this community are all about.

The Longmont Leader is one of COLab’s partners, which now number more than 140 outlets statewide. Silvia’s work there caught our attention at COLab, where we believe journalism can bring communities together. Shared information, common understanding of facts, the ability to hold a mirror up and understand ourselves better – these are things that unite a community. In short, good journalism is good for a community – and you can’t have good journalism without the community’s involvement.

So we hired Silvia to become COLab’s first community engagement director. She is going to help communities and their media sources find ways to build trust and relationships that strengthen both. She will be organizing events, sharing information, connecting people, and helping them find ways to bring better quality news to all Coloradans. The result will be news that is more responsive to a community’s needs. Fewer people will feel like they’re in the dark. Or left out. Or disconnected. We will understand each other, our communities and ourselves better.

Silvia is perfect for this new position. As she put it, everything she has experienced has prepared her for this. As a journalist, she has focused on reporting with and for communities, not just about them – and she’s done so in print, broadcast and digital formats. She earned her master’s degree from New York University with a concentration on social processes and interaction, and is trained in data analysis and qualitative research. Her background makes her uniquely qualified to understand ways that news coverage can suppress communities or lift them up. She is an expert in engagement, having led large projects that have galvanized people around important causes such as local journalism.

Silvia has very clear ideas about the power of journalism – and how local and statewide reporting could be better, more relevant, and more engaging than it has been in Colorado.

“Media can make things real and tangible in a way that helps people feel part of something,” she says. “That’s what COLab does. We can reframe what media is. We can help people see the role individuals play in the way media behave. Ultimately, we’re seeking to ensure the public feels a part of it.”

We’re thrilled to have Silvia on our growing COLab team. Her hire is a win-win-win. For us, for newsrooms statewide and for the communities we all serve.

Mapping the News

Silvia Solis will be working with a team of people helping us understand how people are getting their news. This is crucial because we know from research that weakened news outlets correlate with less community engagement, more expensive government and higher rates of corruption. So we’re “Mapping the News.” Corey Hutchins explains in his regular “Inside the News” feature on COLab’s website.

If you’d like to help us understand these trends, we invite you to take this survey, and pass this message on to a friend!

This post was sent as a letter to our email subscribers on Friday, June 18, 2021. Join our email list to learn more about COLab and the work we are doing.