News

Today, the hallways of the Florida Press Center are quiet. Few politicians make their way through the building and only seven news organizations are still housed there—two of them digital-only operations that didn’t exist a decade ago.

When local newspapers shut their doors, communities lose out. People and their stories can't find coverage. Politicos take liberties when it's nobody's job to hold them accountable. What the public doesn't know winds up hurting them. The city feels poorer, politically and culturally.

According to a new working paper, local news deserts lose out financially too. Cities where newspapers closed up shop saw increases in government costs as a result of the lack of scrutiny over local deals, say researchers who tracked the decline of local news outlets between 1996 and 2015.

It almost seems impossible to ignore national politics today. The stream of stories about the president and Congress is endless; whether online, in print or on television, it’s never been easier to follow the action.

The connection is no coincidence, says Rubado. “If there’s nobody reporting on or providing information about candidates, about legislation, about how money is being spent, or the budgeting process, how will people know that they require a quality challenger to unseat an ineffective mayor?” she said. “They don’t know the mayor is ineffective!”

“Local news and information provide a first-warning system, but they are also a connective tissue,” says Tim Franklin, senior associate dean at Northwestern University’s Medill journalism school and head of the Medill Local News Initiative. “We’re in self-isolation and quarantine. The ability to have an entity that is looking at your neighbors and local officials and describing to you how they’re doing is vital to mental health, not just physical health.”

In a Michigan courtroom in 2018, just before former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was to be sentenced for molesting multiple teenage girls, then-state Attorney General Angela Povilaitis credited reporters at the Indianapolis Star for exposing Nassar’s years of abuse.

“What finally started this reckoning and ended this decades-long cycle of abuse was investigative reporting,” Povilaitis told the judge, who handed down a 40 to 175-year sentence. 

What would my town be without a newspaper? If you haven’t asked yourself that question, perhaps it is time to consider just what the newspaper means to this community.

It’s getting hard to keep track of the bad news about the news right now. But we have to. Here’s our attempt to collect the layoffs, furloughs, and closures caused by the coronavirus’ critical blow to the economy and journalism in the United States. Please send tips. We’ll try to keep up.

In most cases, these entries link to previously reported stories. In some cases, where there are no links, we’re using relying on tips to help show the full impact of this pandemic.