‘Ghosting the News’: Summer reading for a time of action

If a typical saccharin summer beach book feels wrong during this year from hell, consider picking up Margaret Sullivan’s new book, “Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy.” It’s a quick read about an important issue, which makes it ideal for social distancing on the hammock.

Sullivan’s book came out last week, and it’s an important chronicle for anyone with even a passing interest in the fates of the local free press and democracy. In “Ghosting,” Sullivan documents the decline of local newspapers across the country and what might be done to save them.

Many readers in Washington state might not realize just how bad things are out there for communities that, in recent decades, have lost their local weekly or daily newspapers or seen their newspapers reduced to what are being referred to as “ghost newspapers,” as Sullivan refers in her book title. Newspapers in Spokane, Vancouver, Seattle, Yakima and Walla Walla have in-state owners, though struggling with market changes, are faring better. Newspapers under out-of-state ownership have seen staffs and local content cut to the bone. Papers in Olympia, Longview and Skagit Valley are just three examples.

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