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There are more than a million dreams waiting to be had, and the more intentional we are about exercising that muscle, the better we are at the practice of realizing our dreams.

That's why News Voices: North Carolina has begun hosting dream salons — spaces cultivated purely for the purpose of dreaming. In these gatherings, we invite people to focus on discussing their visions for local news: how it can better meet their needs and be more representative of their community.

On the evening of Nov. 8, in the backroom of Koi Pond Brewing Company in Rocky Mount, we hosted our first dream salon in collaboration with our friends at Democracy NC.

We started in Rocky Mount because it’s a place where we’ve heard time and time again, “We want local news. We care about local news. We need good local news.”

And it’s also a place, like so many, where we’ve heard, “We don’t get the local news we need. Our community is not covered in ways that uplift our full humanity.”

Residents in Rocky Mount want to transform the way local news coverage unfolds, which is what has led us to working toward a collective dream that can then be filled with promising tactics, collaborations and projects oriented toward that transformation.

Our time together on Nov. 8 was intimate because we know that for many, dreaming is sacred and requires vulnerability. During our time together, we had the chance to dream with organizers, city workers, local artists and folks who work in the service industry — some of them lifelong or longtime Rocky Mount residents and some who live in neighboring counties, but work in Rocky Mount.

We began the dream salon grounding and centering in the now: How is local news where you live now? How does it function? Who is part of it? Who does it represent?

Participants shared that while they may trust individual reporters, the trust didn’t extend to the institution because they don’t know anyone else at the news organization and because there’s been frequent turnover, with journalists moving on to other places or working in other sectors.

We also heard comparisons to relationships residents in neighboring counties have with television reporters they feel they can call whenever they experience mistreatment or misrepresentation. We heard that as both an acknowledgement of the present and a dream for the future.

So, from there, we began to dream and vision about local news in Rocky Mount. In the future, what do we want local news there to look like, sound like and feel like?

In these meetings, every voice matters.

The multigenerational room had a variety of answers when people talked about what they saw as the future of local news. Ideas bubbled about the intersections of virtual reality and news. What if local journalists could use virtual-reality technology to place people directly within the story they were reading or hearing about?

Someone shared that in the future, there will be more journalists having intentional dinners and dialogues with their audience members to show that those relationships matter and to engage ongoing feedback.

From there, we talked about the possibility of hosting another dream salon to create a more collective, wide-reaching dream for the future of local news in Rocky Mount. That’s something that everyone was interested in —  another dream salon, with a few more people (including some local journalists).

So, we’ll be hosting more dream salons, both in Rocky Mount and beyond. And we’ll be engaging folks in other ways to share their dreams.

And until then, consider this: In the place you call home, in 20, 80 or 200 years, what do you want local news to be?

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