State of Local Journalism
In her reader response to the New York Times article “A Future Without a Front Page,” Julie Sandorf makes a case for philanthropy as the necessary solution to the decline of local journalism. Caitlin Johnson advocates for a “public policy intervention.” Kevin Wilcoxon places the blame for local journalism’s demise squarely in the lap of capitalism.
While these may all give insight into local journalism’s downhill slide, I don’t think any of them are the heart of the problem or its solution.
In her article “Water in a news desert,” Marlee Baldridge praises New Jersey for its $5 million contribution to community journalism. The bill had bipartisan support and will be governed by a 15-person board to prevent corruption.
While this is great, I’m afraid this solution, as well as the solutions posed in “A Future Without a Front Page,” is merely throwing money at the problem.
While money will solve the problem of local newsrooms closing, it doesn’t offer an explanation as to why community reporting is lacking money. In my opinion, that, rather than the financial aspect of this issue, is what needs to be addressed.
I think the lack of money is indicative of a different problem. People take the news for granted. They think they have a right to know what is going on and to have it presented to them in an accurate, concise format.
In a world where people are bombarded with an endless supply of (often unsolicited) information 24/7, they don’t see the news as something unique or of higher value and trustworthiness than what a friend tweeted. A national newsroom can afford this lack of interest; a local one cannot.
Community journalism has a small, specific, niche audience, as opposed to the thriving national media. People have other ways of finding out news, especially local news. It could come from a Facebook post, a text from a neighbor, or an overheard conversation at the grocery store.
Local news has a greater effect on people because of its proximity. With greater effect comes greater need for accuracy, because the likelihood of action being taken as a result of the information is much higher. Therefore, the need for local journalism is greater.
The focus of all of these articles is on how money is needed or being doled out to reverse the decline of local journalism newsrooms. I think what local journalism really needs is for people value good information and be willing to pay for it.