U.S. newspapers close at a rate of two per week, according to David Bauder of Associated Press, referring to a recent study. In most cases, there is no replacement, creating a news desert. Lack of local news is bad for our society.
The Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University recently updated their multi-year research on the status of newspapers in the United States. Bottom line? “This is a crisis for our democracy and our society,” the study said.
To resolve the issue of how we secure local news, we must first understand the problem and what it means. The following is from the executive summary of Medill’s 2022 State of Local News Report:
- Newspapers are continuing to vanish at a rapid rate. An average of more than two a week are disappearing.
- Digital alternatives remain scarce, despite an increase in corporate and philanthropic funding.
- More than a fifth of the nation’s citizens live in news deserts—with very limited access to local news—or in communities at risk of becoming news deserts.
- The surviving newspapers—especially the dailies—have cut staff and circulation significantly as print revenues and profits evaporated.
- The largest chains control the fate of many of the nation’s surviving newspapers. Their business strategies and decisions continue to shape the local news landscape.
- There is a new—often overlooked—media baron on the scene, aggressively buying dailies and weeklies in small and mid-sized markets.
- Dailies are becoming more like weeklies, and vice versa, but their business models and strategies are diverging.
- Despite the recent increase in both corporate and philanthropic funds, the footprint of digital-only news sites is small, and predominantly a big-city phenomenon.
- The disparity between communities that have strong news organizations and those that don’t is primarily the result of market demographics, ownership structure and available funding.
- Getting news to those communities that have lost the news involves rethinking both current journalistic practices—as well as for-profit, nonprofit and public funding policies at the national, state and local levels.
This is a nation increasingly divided journalistically, between those who live and work in communities where there is an abundance of local news and those who don’t. Invariably, the economically struggling, traditionally underserved communities that need local journalism the most are the very places where it is most difficult to sustain either print or digital news organizations.
The loss of local journalism has been accompanied by the malignant spread of misinformation and disinformation, political polarization, eroding trust in media, and a yawning digital and economic divide among citizens. In communities without a credible source of local news, voter participation declines, corruption in both government and business increases, and local residents end up paying more in taxes and at checkout.The State of Local News 2022, The Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.
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