USD Associate Professor of Communication Nikki Usher Coordinating Policy Solutions to Support Information Needs of Communities 

USD Associate Professor of Communication Nikki Usher Coordinating Policy Solutions to Support Information Needs of Communities 

Nikki Usher speaking to attendees

University of San Diego Associate Professor of Communication Nikki Usher, PhD (they/them), hosted a workshop at USD called “Media Policy for an Informed Citizenry: Revisiting The Information Needs of Communities in a Time of Democratic Crisis.”

The Social Science Research Council sponsored the peer review workshop for a special issue Usher is co-editing for the ANNALS of the American Academy of Social and Political Science. The issue will be published this summer and is catered to scholars and policymakers hoping to address the crisis in American communities that increasingly lack access to trustworthy local news and information. 

“The bottom line is that democracy suffers when citizens do not have access to robust local news and information. Given the growing body of evidence that American democracy is in crisis, it is vital that the path that local journalism is traveling be reversed,” says Usher.

Usher’s research focuses on new technology, politics and the news media, with an emphasis on how power, inequality and economics impact our news and information environment. Their current work considers how political partisanship and changes in contemporary journalism threaten democratic institutions. 

Usher is proud to have brought the group together on campus for this annual workshop for the first time this year. 

“The contributors have a broad range of perspectives about what constitutes media policy and the breadth of potential government reform, ensuring that the volume highlights a variety of potential interventions.”

Topics covered in the workshop included examining how local protests are studied and curated online, repairing journalism’s history of anti-Black harm and state and local legislation to support local news. The next steps following the workshop are expected to be far-reaching. 

One of the strongest recommendations that came out of the workshop is for lawmakers to encourage the public to think more actively about what it means to support local news and the dissemination of information, especially to marginalized communities. More specific and actionable solutions will be forthcoming as the volume develops. 

“Local news is as important as critical infrastructure like roads and water. We need to think more about the role that platforms like Google and Facebook are playing as a public utility. They serve as conduits to distributing news and information to millions of people. We will argue for a more inclusive understanding of what it means to have community information that speaks to marginalized groups that have never been included in these conversations,” says Usher.

Usher is interested in coordinating more of these workshops on campus and would like to eventually build a policymaking center at USD geared to teach students to translate research into actionable suggestions. 


Michelle Kennedy
(619) 828-5685