May 17, 2021 10:28 am

Rebuilding trust in civic institutions starts with human connection

The power of audio is that it can build bridges between people and prompt collective action, says guest columnist Sarah Harris.

A recent study found that out of those who listen to audio content — including news, podcasts or talk shows — 9 in 10 are engaged in their communities, significantly more than non-audio listeners.

(Photo by SoundGirls Women in Audio on Unsplash)

This guest column was written by Sarah Harris, the vice president of social impact at Audacy.
We are in uncharted waters for our democracy — 75% of Americans report their trust in government is declining. The politicization of flags, masks, vaccines and voting reveal the breakdown in civic dialogue happening nationally and even within our neighborhoods.

Yet, we can restore civil conversation with our neighbors and rebuild trust in our institutions — the very ones that were dreamed up in this city not that long ago.  And, we can utilize one of the best forms of human connection to do so: audio.

Regardless of your preferred format — news, podcasts, music — audio moves people. Audio has often been a respite and escape for people, especially during the pandemic. It is also a trusted ally and informed friend — that’s exactly what enables audio to be a hopeful voice to rekindle civil conversations — bridging people together and prompting collective action.

Further, local news is a cornerstone of democracy. It connects people with their community, government and one another. It’s accessible. When national pundits on cable news can make you feel like all is lost, your local community affairs reporter elevates the conversation and grounds you in truth.

Audio platforms are more trusted than other media, 69% of US adults indicate they trust audio.

Audio platforms are more trusted than other media, 69% of US adults indicate they trust audio, while fewer trust TV (64%), Google (60%), social media (56%) and digital pure plays (44%) when it comes to news and advertising. It’s why we made civic education one of the pillars of our social impact program, Audacy Serves, because it is so inextricably linked to what we do as a company.

At Audacy, we lean into this insight because we recognize the depth of trust we have within our local communities, which span the nation and serve an array of diverse experiences and perspectives. As the country’s leading audio influencer with over 170 million monthly listeners, we work to cut through the noise and build authentic connections within communities, especially through our local news teams and personalities.

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That connection shows up within our fans and listeners, too. In a recent study, we found that out of those who listen to audio content — including news, podcasts or talk shows — 9 in 10 are engaged in their communities, significantly more than non-audio listeners (59%). This means they’re more inclined to donate to a charity, volunteer, belong to a community organization, or participate in recreational community teams.

Realizing the potential of audio to move people toward constructive civic action, we collaborated with the Institute for Citizens & Scholars to shine a spotlight on youth-led community solutions as part of its Civic Spring Project. This effort supported six organizations who were looking to meaningfully collaborate, mentor and involve young people over summer 2020 in responding to local community needs in one of two areas: responding to COVID-19 and/or building civic capacities for the 2020 election cycle.

Young people from New Jersey, North Carolina, Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas designed projects that were nonpartisan and spoke to the unique needs and conversations within their communities. Success stories include securing unemployment benefits for laid-off youth, presenting policy recommendations to the board of education and developing a community news site. Above all, they built genuine connection, trust and community resilience through their work that will last well beyond an election cycle.

That is the type of work that calls us to be better versions of ourselves and shows us what we can accomplish when equipped with accurate, timely local news and information — and moved to action. Audio shares these powerful stories of people working together fueling belief in the virtuous cycle — that we can take action and make an impact.

From our headquarter city in Philadelphia — the birthplace of democracy — to each of our communities across the nation, we’re utilizing our voice and seeking new avenues to rebuild trust with one another and move our communities forward.


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