Can Local Journalism Be Saved?
Although there is no single “fix” for the decline of local journalism, experiments in different countries suggest ways to revitalize this crucial institution. All prioritize the production of public-interest news by whatever means available over seeking to salvage outdated commercial approaches.
PRINCETON – “All politics is local,” proclaims an old American saying. That might partly explain why democratic politics is going so badly – especially, but not only, in the United States. For local government to work properly, there must be local journalism to hold politicians and policymakers to account. But local journalism has been collapsing in many parts of the world.
This makes it more difficult for citizens to connect to civic life, both locally and, eventually, nationally. Local problems that could have wider significance go unreported, and many of the on-the-ground effects of national policies are unrecognized. But though there is no single “fix” for the decline of local journalism, we are not helpless. Experiments in different countries suggest ways to revitalize local reporting. All make the production of public-interest news, by whatever economic means available, a priority over seeking to salvage outdated commercial approaches.
For most of the twentieth century, the news business relied on advertising revenue. But that model started collapsing in the late 1990s as the internet became ubiquitous. Local journalism was hit especially hard, not only because ads migrated to free online classified boards (like Craigslist), but also because local papers lacked the resources to build an attractive web presence that could support a successful subscription model.
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