To Protect Democracy, Revive Local Journalism
Without local journalism, citizens become less informed, and corruption becomes more likely, leading to a decline in voter turnout and erosion of democratic institutions. Fortunately, there has been a resurgence of innovative business models aimed at sustaining local journalism in the digital age.
BERKELEY – The Washington Post’s famous slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” is sadly coming true in many parts of the United States. The digital age has shattered newspapers’ business model, turning many communities into “news deserts” with no local journalism. Some 2,500 daily or weekly newspapers have folded since 2005, and there are now fewer than 6,500 left. Every week, two more disappear.
The decline of local journalism is driven by many factors, but economic challenges top the list. Earlier in the internet era, Craigslist supplanted the classified ads that previously funded newspaper journalism. Then came the big digital platforms, which put the final nails in the coffin of the traditional advertising model. Starved of revenue, local news outlets have had to lay off staff, reduce coverage areas, or shut down altogether.
According to Pew Research, the number of local newsroom employees in the US fell by 57% between 2008 and 2020, resulting in thousands of “ghost newspapers” that barely cover their own communities. Small local newspapers simply do not have the scale to compete against digital advertising giants like Google and Facebook.