The United States continues to lose newspapers at a rate of two a week, further dividing the nation into wealthier, faster growing communities with access to local news, and struggling areas without, according to a report on the state of local news from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.
Between the pre-pandemic months of late 2019 and the end of May 2022, more than 360 newspapers closed, the report by Medill’s Local News Initiative found. Since 2005, the country has lost more than one-fourth of its newspapers and is on track to lose a third by 2025.
Most of the communities that have lost newspapers do not get a print or digital replacement, leaving 70 million residents – or a fifth of the country’s population – either living in an area with no local news organizations, or one at risk, with only one local news outlet and very limited access to critical news and information that can inform their everyday decisions and sustain grassroots democracy. About 7 percent of the nation’s counties, or 211, now have no local newspaper.
“This is a crisis for our democracy and our society, said Penelope Muse Abernathy, visiting professor at Medill and the principal author of the report. “Invariably, the economically struggling, traditionally underserved communities that need local journalism the most are the very places where it is most difficult to sustain print or digital news organizations.”
Recent research shows that, in communities without a strong print or digital news organization, voter participation declines and corruption increases, Abernathy said, contributing to the spread of misinformation, political polarization and reduced trust in media.
The Medill report on “The State of Local News in 2022” focused on researching and analyzing the health of local newspapers and local digital outlets. While newspapers declined over the past two years, an increase in corporate and philanthropic funding contributed to the establishment of 64 new digital sites focused on covering either state or local news. Most digital sites are located in digitally connected urban areas with diverse sources of funding.
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