News

This kind of journalism—local papers that are rooted in communities—is disappearing, and the places most at risk of losing their local news are places where a lot of conservatives happen to live. COVID-19 has wrought havoc on newsrooms, and massive layoffs continue to occur at newspapers across the country. But even before the pandemic, the crisis in local journalism was well established.

Between 2008 and 2017, American newspapers cut 45 percent of their newsrooms staff—and the following years, for many outlets, brought even deeper contractions.

Newspapers in every state received forgivable, low-interest loans through the Paycheck Protection Program to keep journalists working during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data released this week by the Small Business Administration.
Not so long ago, the Youngstown Vindicator sent someone to cover every municipal or school board meeting in the surrounding three-county area. “People knew that,” said Mark Brown, former general manager of the northeastern Ohio newspaper, “and they behaved.”
“As local journalism declines, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness, and corporate malfeasance goes unchecked. With the loss of local news, citizens are: less likely to vote, less politically informed, and less likely to run for office.” Democracy weakens, in other words, and loses its foundations.
Stuck between a constricting print business model and a shaky digital future, a time made even more unstable by the coronavirus, editors and reporters have been forced to scale back their ambitions. A careful reader can detect the gaps, the stories not told, the voices not heard.
The pandemic looks like it will be another defining moment for local journalism not only in Pittsburgh but across the U.S., according to a newly updated report from the University of North Carolina. It shows that losses that were happening before the crisis have only accelerated...

Local newspaper reporters who doggedly attend school board, planning commission and city council meetings and who scan police blotters and pore over budgets and contracts are essential cogs in our communities. They serve as the eyes and ears of the public and play a critical role as watchdogs for waste, fraud and abuse and holding officials accountable.

I know this firsthand: I began what became a nearly three-decade journalism career playing this role in Colonie, New York, and later in Bergen County, New Jersey.

Local news allows readers to cut away from national headlines, navigate through some of the biases that plague cable news, and get to the true issues that are affecting their communities. It’s easy to imagine a story like this slipping through the cracks. Only the efforts of Anjeanette Damon and her colleagues at Reno Gazette Journal brought it to the attention of local readers.
The very framework of democracy in America is being weakened by the rapid, widespread demise of local news organizations, particularly small newspapers that once served as trusted providers of information and pillars of their communities, according to Margaret Sullivan, who spoke virtually to a South Dakota audience on Tuesday, June 30.
As Ken Doctor put it on Monday, "this is the mid-year witching hour for the U.S. daily press," with numerous possible outcomes. McClatchy's biggest investor Chatham might end up with the newspaper chain. Or Gannett. Or a group of investors from the "growing civic-good journalism world" who could set up "the country's first major nonprofit newspaper chain."