Place Matters: The American Communities Project Moves to the MSU School of Journalism

The American Communities Project maps out the counties of the U.S. according to their political, socioeconomic and cultural make-up.

The American Communities Project (ACP) is bringing its unique, data-driven perspective on local communities to its new home at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. ACP uses data and reporting to make sense of the social, cultural, and political changes transforming America at the local level. The innovative project will continue its ground-breaking work in the new Center for Journalism Studies and the award-winning J-School at ComArtSci.

Led by Project Director and Founder Dante Chinni, the American Communities Project draws on a wide array of data—including election results, economic data, consumer surveys, and polls—to map local communities across the country in terms of their shared characteristics. The result is the ACP community typology: A map of 15 types of local communities identified through a data analysis partnership with academic researchers. These data open a new window for journalists into the uniquely local stories of challenge and opportunity in America.

“We use county-level data to find trends that can’t be seen in national data or regional data or even in demographic data—for example, the unemployment story coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. These data help us figure out where to go, and then we will actually go to those locations and let the people fill in the blanks with their own voices,” said Chinni.

A journalist for more than 20 years, Chinni works closely with the Wall Street Journal and NBC News Political Unit. He's been studying the intersection of communities and data since 2008, when he founded Patchwork Nation. Chinni has won numerous awards including a 2009 Knight-Batten Award for Journalistic Innovation. He is a graduate of MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences, and holds a B.A. in Journalism and History.

“We are excited to welcome the American Communities Project to MSU,” said Tim Vos, Ph.D. Director of the School of Journalism. “Their inventive blend of social science and journalistic storytelling is a perfect fit with the strengths of the J-School and the newly established Center for Journalism Studies.” Vos expects the project will provide invaluable access to data for researchers and journalists in the School of Journalism.

The American Communities Project was previously housed at George Washington University.

To learn more about the American Communities Project, visit:

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