One Big Thing: Have you experienced a local news desert?
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What is it?
- According to Penelope Muse Abernathy and the University of North Carolina Hussman School of Journalism and Media, 2,100 newspapers have closed in the past 15 years, newspaper circulation has fallen by 54 million since 2005, and 36,000 journalist jobs have disappeared. The areas which now face a dearth of local news outlets are known as news deserts.
- The decrease of local newspapers has left over 1,800 communities without any local news sources, ranging from rural communities to highly populated suburbs.
- Many fear that following the pandemic, many more local newspapers will disappear, expanding local news deserts in rural America.
- The emergence of social media-based advertising, the decline of local businesses, and consumer preferences have all contributed to the decline of local newspapers, but there are significant consequences for civil society.
Why is it important?
- According to Kenyon College Professor Nancy Powers, the decline of local newspapers contributes to the decline of democracy. Local newspapers “contribute to greater communication between government authorities and the population” and generate greater accountability for local officials. Local news “sets an agenda” for local public policies and leads to better civic discourse.
- As local newspapers have decreased in number, misinformation and disinformation have both grown in the past few years. Local newspapers provide trusted sources and prevent the spread of misinformation among less-connected communities.
- News deserts contribute to a decline in civil society organizations in rural America, which contributes to a rise in isolation and alienation.
What can you do?
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