Where Do You Get Your (Local) News?
The Midweek Question
We live in an age where more and more news seems to be geared to the national level. We have radio programming, cable news outlets, and big newspapers with national reach, like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. In many ways all of these forms of media are doing pretty well from a financial standpoint.
This stands in stark contrast to local newspapers, which had been the workhorses of American journalism for a long time. They are getting hammered financially, and many have gone out of business. The cost to our democracy from this trend is disturbing. We become more and more national in our thinking, sorting along the battle lines of our national political chasms. This means less regional variation within our major political parties. But more fundamentally, the death of local newspapers removes important checks on our governmental and private sector functions. From statehouses, to mayor’s offices, to police forces, to business communities, to zoning boards, important actions are being decided and implemented without coverage.
The pandemic, while global in scale, has once again put a spotlight on the importance of local journalism. We need to know what is happening in our communities; it is literally a matter of life and death. Add to this all the other urgencies of local news and it had us wondering about your local news habits.
We have great respect for you in the Steady community. We know you are interested in what is happening in your communities and feel a need to be informed. So we wanted to know…
Where you get your local news?
Do you see signs of hope or only despair?
Are new models emerging?
Have you seen your local newspapers (or other news sources) do innovative forms of coverage?
Have you recently subscribed to a local news outlet? Or have you dropped your coverage?
What do you think is being lost on the local news front?
Please add to these questions anything else you want to say on the topic. At Steady, we hope to make a focus on the plight of local news a recurring part of our coverage. And we are eager to have you help us in this effort.
I trust what I read and listen to from Dr. Heather Cox Richardson.
I think the loss of local reporters and journalists is a far bigger problem. Let me explain.
In order to cover a community, reporters had to understand how things worked. For example, to cover local government – city councils, school boards, water boards, county supervisors etc. – reporters had to navigate a confusing array of processes and procedures (including agendas, minutes, legal parameters, elections, authorities, public and closed session meetings, and budgets).
In short, reporters served as civic interpreters who translated legalese into laymen’s language. Unfortunately, few people realized how much they depended on local reporters to translate the language of local government. In turn, local officials relied on local reporters to guide the public through the process.
For example, I’ve been watching the uproar at school board meetings over CRT and masks. Without a local reporter guiding them through the decision-making process, these parents arrived too late. The decisions had been made.
School boards are bound by laws and can NOT vote on anything, that has not been placed on the agenda and noticed to the public in advance. Most school board members are so afraid of breaking the law, they won’t even speak in public meetings. Only the most highly skilled school board member knows how to agendize an item during public comments. And these videos make it painfully clear that American schools have very few skilled elected officials.
Personally, I attribute the decline of Civic Life, to the loss of local reporters. Anyone can create an on-line newspaper. But without reporters, opinion is the only thing a newspaper can print.