Major Research Initiatives
Getting Forest Service Messages out to a Diverse Public
Although visiting populations at some Forest Service sites are primarily from groups of color, recreationists visiting National Forest lands are more likely to be White than any other ethnic or racial group. There are a number of reasons for this disparity in use levels, including a lack of information about outdoor recreational opportunities. The continuing shift towards an increasingly diverse society elevates the importance of ensuring that information is provided through means that are most appropriate to each ethnic and racial group.
A study completed by Bill Crano and Ryan Quist of the Claremont Graduate University and Pat Winter of PSW examined the use of various forms of media, including sources most used and most trusted for information regarding natural resource opportunities. The study involved a telephone survey of residents in the Los Angeles basin. The final sample of respondents included 195 Latinos, 200 Blacks, 195 Asians, and 202 Whites. While there is clearly heterogeneity within each of these ethnic groups, our aim was to examine variations at the larger group level. The majority of interviews were completed in English, nine percent were conducted in Spanish.
Comparisons of general media usage revealed significant variations by ethnic group. For example, Black respondents reported the most hours watching television, while Latinos reported the most hours listening to radio. Hours spent reading magazines and newspapers did not vary significantly by ethnic group. Comparisons of participation in community and church activities by ethnic group showed that participation in community organization activities was lowest among Latinos, while participation in church activities was highest among Black respondents. Which specific media outlets were most often used was also examined, revealing a wide variety of outlets, including many that were ethnically based.
Respondents were asked which source they most trusted regarding information about forest recreation opportunities. The most trusted sources were friends/family and computers/internet. Whites were twice as likely to trust newspapers than were Asians, Latinos were two times more likely than any other group to trust television.
Findings suggest that communicating with diverse publics requires some variation in media sources to be used as points of contact for reaching different ethnic groups. The heavy reliance on family and friends, particularly in the Latino community, suggests that establishing and maintaining contacts in the community may be quite effective in disseminating information about recreational opportunities. While the trust in computers and the internet was reassuring in light of recent e-government efforts, geographic, economic, and educational variations in access to and comfort with the internet suggest caution in relying heavily on web information as the primary means of communicating with diverse publics. A combination of off-site communication routes that include the web, community contacts, and newspapers is recommended.
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