Americans consume a massive amount of media from sources around the globe — but how much of that knowledge empowers residents to make a difference in their own communities?
Chattamatters is Chattanooga’s hyperlocal storytelling series that aims to change that dynamic and nurture community investment across the city. Created by The Enterprise Center, the project explains in simplified terms how local government works and digs into challenges that residents face as a community – with a focus on solutions.
Through video, newsletters, and social media, Chattamatters breaks down complex issues like affordable housing, homelessness, and the recycling system, while providing local pathways for residents to give feedback to government officials or get involved in volunteer efforts.
Other questions like, “Is the Tennessee River too contaminated for swimming?” and, “How are ballots counted in Hamilton County?” have been featured topics, alongside a weekly breakdown of Chattanooga City Council agendas.
“So much of the media we consume makes us feel overwhelmed, helpless, and divided,” said Chattamatters Director Mary Helen Montgomery. “But people can really make a difference on a local level. Chattamatters helps give residents a shared understanding of how things work, and how they can get involved.”
Montgomery, who has a background in journalism, podcasting, and documentary storytelling, said that Chattamatters has been a passion project. “It’s been exciting to see the public respond so enthusiastically to the content we’re producing: We’ve heard from so many people who have changed the way they do things or gotten involved in local government for the first time.”
The Enterprise Center – which supports economic development in Chattanooga and Hamilton County and aims to improve lives through access to technology – launched Chattamatters in the Spring of 2022, in partnership with the City of Chattanooga. The project aims to strengthen digital literacy and, ultimately, to ensure residents have the knowledge and resources to effect change in their community.