Following the collection of survey data, a subset of 9 in-depth interviews with 10 individuals were conducted in order to gain a deeper understanding of the processes of information exchange across Montanans. Interview participants were invited from survey responses with attention to age, education level, and Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) scores, as there were significant differences in information exchange for these variables on the first survey. Additionally, interview participants were invited from diverse geographies in Montana and professions. The interview questions included: personal and community background information; information accessibility; information trustworthiness; information sharing; information exchange during COVID-19. Interviews were audio-recorded and lasted an average of 52 minutes (range = 39 to 170 minutes). Interviews were transcribed verbatim using Trint and a professional transcriptionist. Applying discourse analysis, the researcher established a main research question; gathered social and historical context of the research through primary and secondary data collection; analyzed transcripts, along with survey data, for themes; and presented results within this digital scholarship project as well as the development of a Framework for the Mindful Consumption and (Re)Creation of Information.
The themes that emerged from the interviews are reflected in the issues identified in the Framework for the Mindful Consumption and (Re)Creation of Information, including: Information in media is constantly changing; Information in media is never ending; Consuming news and information causes a variety of physical and mental responses; Information comes from multiple sources that do not necessarily agree; Information from media is mostly bad and only sometimes good; Media is present in a local and global context; Information from media is biased, untruthful, and mean spirited. Below, the interview recordings, transcripts, and highlights are available for readers to engage with.
Loren and Charlon Alberda
Although neither had much interest in news during their younger days, as they matured, both Loren and Charlon Alberda have grown into rather voracious news consumers. As Loren articulated, they both “like to know what’s going on and who’s doing what...it's way more important today than it was back then.” In search of balance, the Alberdas access their news and information from a variety of print, television, and radio sources to form their own opinions. They make a conscious decision not to be online in effort to avoid skewed information.
View the transcript of the interview with Loren and Charlon Alberda.
A fourth generation sheep rancher in the US with ancestral sheep raising roots 11 generations deep in Scotland, Kristen Bieber discusses information access in rural, eastern Montana. A lack of reliable internet connection and “mediocre” internet speed shapes her experience accessing information from online sources. In Brockway, the community typically shares news and information about stock and commodity prices, local events, and views on various topics by word-of-mouth at the local gas station or bar. Kristin views an ever-increasing quantity of information available from various sorts of media as an “overload” that can easily become conflicting, depressing, and even frustrating. Speaking about social media and always-on information sharing, she playfully quips, “it'd be really nice if people would just be quiet for a little while, have their inner thoughts and keep them to themselves.”
Timothy Lee "Buck" Buchanan
A man of many talents, Buck Buchanan identified print journalists as the “gold standard” for “truth and accuracy in reporting”. Buchanan relies on public radio and public television for his news and information. Discussing the complicated role of social media in the information landscape, Buchanan artfully explained, “...it's kind of like you go to a bar and instead of just the band having a microphone, everybody in the whole place has a microphone. And now you're trying to make sense out of all this stuff and people are maybe wanting to dance or whatever or listen to something. But all but everybody's got a microphone. And this is like, whoa, this is too much so.”
View the transcript of the interview with Timothy Lee "Buck" Buchanan.
Sadie Caltrider describes her community in Dillon, Montana as “tight-knit,” with ample opportunity for outdoor recreation, and a bit “adverse to technology.” She seeks balanced news sources that convey a high degree of journalistic integrity. Consciously avoiding the material waste that comes with paper-based information, Sadie consumes her information from digital sources. Taking great effort to verify the information she accesses, Sadie emphasizes, “If it feels salacious, it probably is. And so if it's something that I really care about or want to know whether or not that's true, instead of continuing squirreling, I'll usually get on Google and just see what comes up from various news sites … usually written journalism is what I prefer … It just I don't know why, but that does feel more like uh like it has more integrity, something like The New York Times or printed through NPR. Or, you know, Washington Post, L.A. Times, things like that. Uh, some of the big, you know, major foundational newspapers, something like that, just feels like there's more journalistic integrity there.”
White Sulphur Springs, Montana
After bouncing around western Montana and a brief time living in Miami, Florida, chef, writer, editor Don Doig moved to White Sulphur Springs about 10 years ago. The first cousin once removed of author Ivan Doig, Don talks fondly of the White Sulphur Springs’ natural beauty and rich history. A self-described “lifelong libertarian”, Doig relies upon a variety of “libertarian information sources” that he considers familiar, reliable, factual, and trustworthy. Deeply concerned about privacy, censorship, and truth, Don distrusts popular social media platforms. Addressing the topic of fake news, Don indicated it is a widespread problem within mainstream media “like CNN and MSNBC and New York Times, Washington Post, outfits like that...Apparently that’s their business model.”
In 2011, Hannah Downey moved to Bozeman, Montana from Edina, Minnesota to attend Montana State University. She stayed in Bozeman for its many opportunities for outdoor adventure as well as a career with environmental policy think tank PERC. In her professional role, Hannah is expected to be up-to-date with current information relevant to economics, environment, and policy. She is also responsible for analyzing this information and communicating it to others. To achieve these goals, Hannah has access to a wide variety of information sources, spanning paper and electronic news media, academic research publications, as well as face-to-face communication. Articulating that we are “inundated with news now”, Hannah utilizes a number of strategies (such as following specific individuals and organizations with experience, expertise, and well-established credentials on Twitter) to sift through the sea of information and acquire information from experts that she trusts. She also unplugs in the outdoors from time to time and reflects, “I'm just like constantly inundated with these sources of information where it really kind of required me being off the grid a little bit to escape it .... It's kind of wild how much we assume for it to be there at the snap of a finger um and how much you feel like you can miss in the course of like twenty four hours being disconnected.”
White Sulphur Springs, Montana
An independent geologist and alternative energy installation entrepreneur, Steve Hicks describes himself as, “Very, very persistent on some things. I've got uh some legal experience. You know, essentially, I irritate the government every time and stand up for my rights.” A 20-year resident of White Sulphur Springs, he depicts his community as “laid back...A lot of freedom here. There’s no zoning...it’s a conservative community.” Steve tends to consume information with “a very conservative bent” from a mix of television, online, radio, and print sources. His regular information routine includes Varney and Company, The Drudge Report, a curated email digest that presents, “different articles that that the guy has pulled out”, as well as a local weekly newspaper. Discussing changes in the information landscape during his lifetime, Steve explained “the availability is is just, you know, far superior to to what it used to be...you used to have to go down to the library and...pick out uh different newspapers to...research something, which which again years ago I did. So uh the the Internet is just is just fabulous as far as wanting to find out things. So the difference is between night and day, I'd say.”
View the audio transcript of the interview with Steve Hicks.
Sabrina Rubich has spent most of her life in Billings, Montana. She has a “love of paper” information sources and watches the local news from “time to time.” She rarely uses social media or the Internet for news, unless it is a topic of specific interest to her. As a member of the LGBTQ community, mother of two, and employed in the food industry, she sometimes uses the internet to search for information that affects these groups. She considers that with the ease of documenting and sharing events in real time, “We've all kind of become our own journalists…for certain points in our history...we've all kind of become our own little journalists in our lives…It's kind of put the ball into our court to tell our story. No matter what color, you know, what race you are...It doesn't matter anymore. You can, you know, if you're if you don't feel like you're pretty enough for TV, you are now, you're a journalist. Congratulations. Here's your phone. You can go out in the real world.”
View the audio transcript of the interview with Sabrina Rubich.
Since moving to Bozeman from Garreyowen (a small town located on the Crow Reservation) to attend Montana State University, processes of information exchange have changed drastically for Elizabeth Swank. “When I was growing up, you either had the local morning news or you had the newspapers. And sometimes once a week you would have...the county local newspaper …[Now] You can go anywhere and you can look at anybody’s news.” She explains that although there is generally more information available now, there are significant differences in equitability of access. Elizabeth illustrates the information access disparities that exist between people living in areas without reliable internet and those who live in areas with stable internet connections. Although she lives in Bozeman with a stable and swift internet connection and access to a wide variety of information sources through social media, online news outlets, and television, Elizabeth consciously avoids news at times when it is “negative” and feels “overwhelming.”
View the audio transcript of the interview with Elizabeth Swank.