There’s been a lot of discussion lately — including on this show — of the problems facing national news. Cries of fake news, illiberalism in the administration, fractured audiences, the cancel culture debate, shaky business models, and more. But the truest crisis in news isn’t in national news. It’s in local news.
American newspapers cut 45 percent of newsroom staff between 2008 and 2017. From 2004 to 2015, the U.S. newspaper industry lost over 1,800 print outlets to closures and mergers. And it’s only gotten worse since then. This is truest crisis in American news media: That so many places are losing the institutions that gather the news, that bind the community together, that hold public officials accountable ands bring public concerns visibility. Vast swaths of the country are now news deserts — and it’s happening at the same time that the average news consumer feels like they’re drowning in more information than ever before.
Margaret Sullivan was the award-winning chief editor of the Buffalo News, then the public editor of the New York Times, and now the media columnist for the Washington Post. She’s also the author of Ghosting The News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of Democracy. This is a conversation about the economic, technological, and political forces that led to the devastation of local news; what happens to communities in the absence of health local news institutions; and, just as importantly, what we can do to save and revitalize local journalism.
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