Watch Author Margaret Sullivan Explain How the Decline of Local Journalism Undermines American Democracy

With the advent of smart phones, laptops and social media, the news can seem more present in modern life than ever. But in reality, news is facing a dire crisis, which only serves to undermine American democracy, says Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for the Washington Post and author of the new book Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy.

Sullivan explains to Katie Couric, as part of a series produced with TIME, that between 2004 and 2019, 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. went out of business. This led to many communities becoming “news deserts”—places with limited local news sources. This means that in many places, there may be no reporters to show up at city council meetings, local school boards or other events, and no one to hold politicians and other people with power accountable.

The decline of local news can have significant consequences for communities, Sullivan tells Couric. Citizens tend to become less civically engaged, less likely to vote and more likely to “go into their partisan corners” and vote along party lines when they do go to the polls. Without the contributions of local news reporters, Sullivan warns, “our democracy actually doesn’t work any more.”

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