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SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

What is the Real Storytelling Project?

Indigenous sacred drums and drumsticks played before the El Pueblo History Museum SOAR Speaker Series. Photo by Jon Pluskota.

By Hailee Langowski. Spanish translation by Community Language Cooperative.

Pueblo, Colo., is a city filled with stories from various perspectives. From the creation of the delicious Pueblo chile slopper, artists designing murals along the levee of the Arkansas River, understanding the operations at EVRAZ rail mill, and Indigenous learnings and teachings of language, culture and traditions occurring at El Pueblo History Museum are few examples of the energetic spirit the city of Pueblo possesses. 

As important as it is to engage and participate within the community, we ask who is helping to share these stories. Is there any project that supports the storytelling of the Pueblo and Southern Colorado region? The answer is yes, and it is the Real Storytelling Project. 

Real Storytelling is community-based, hyper-local storytelling. As prominent media organizations cover national news, addressing the civic participation and community connection that happens with local news is essential. It is the relevant and dynamic stories that impact the community. 

Our “local” newspaper, The Pueblo Chieftain, is owned by a large organization not community-based in Pueblo or Colorado. The stories that appear in The Pueblo Chieftain have been designed, copy-edited and content developed in Austin, Texas. It is through the media organization that local stories within the community are not covered, and this has allowed Pueblo, Colo., to become a “news desert.”

According to the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, a news desert is “a rural or urban community with limited access to the sort of credible and comprehensive news and information that feeds democracy at the grassroots level.”

Regarding the size of their viewership and the quality and quantity of their editorial content, UNC noted that many newspapers had devolved into ghosts of what they once were. As a result, significant communities throughout the nation, particularly those rural and experiencing economic hardship, are in danger of losing access to local storytelling due to the emergence of news deserts.

What is happening to local news as Pueblo is experiencing this “news desert” phenomenon? The discussions on how to rethink local news must focus on individuals who no longer trust or have access to local media (or never did), particularly communities of color, residents of news deserts, and those without access to home internet.

While community-based, hyper-local news is disappearing; Colorado wants to change that. Supported by the Colorado Media Project (CMP), Colorado News Collaborative (COLab) is a nonprofit, statewide media resource center and ideas lab that improves local journalism, civic participation and public accountability for all Coloradans. CMP and CoLab launched News Voices: Colorado to work alongside communities, especially those whose needs and voices have historically been ignored or misrepresented in media, to help repair and strengthen local news.

CSU Pueblo SOCO Student Media is a part of the COLab and CMP’s Advancing Equity in Local News grant program aims to shift power dynamics, build trust between local journalists and their communities, and build newsroom capacity to address inequities by working with communities to create a healthier, more inclusive public square in Colorado. This grant was the beginning of Real Storytelling. 

Real Storytelling is a project focusing on the Pueblo and Southern Colo. community perspective and genuinely understanding and investigating the stories happening at the hyper-local level. 

The Chair and Associate Professor of the Dep. of Media & Entertainment and one of the faculty lead for the project, Dr. Jon Pluskota, mentioned that Real Storytelling is about sharing the stories that not every person is aware of and how their impact is relevant. 

“It’s not saying that national news doesn’t impact local communities; it’s that there’s a source for that already. Who is going to fill in that gap for local and regional news relevant to people?” he said. 

While moving forward with Real Storytelling, the following steps are community connection. The lively stories that fill the Pueblo community have an opportunity and the space to share their authentic experience and voice. The aim is local community-driven storytelling, along with the support of facts and fact-checking. 

The Real Storytelling Project will be at the Earth Day: Indigenous Music and Arts Festival on April 22nd at the El Pueblo History Museum between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. As El Pueblo History Museum, Storytellers of the Ancestral Red Road (SOAR), CSU Pueblo, and the Pueblo Levee Project will host a family-friendly Indigenous music and arts festival for Earth Day 2023, Real Storytelling will also have a presence capturing people’s experiences, voices and stories that enrich the Pueblo community throughout the day. Visit us and tell us your story!

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