Why the loss of local news is bad for democracy

“The shutdown of local news organizations is bad for democracy, a media expert argues.

The internet has revolutionized the way people get news and information. In journalism, the old ways of raising revenue no longer work, and research shows local news is suffering the most.

There have been incredible innovations from national outlets like The New York Times in terms of how they analyze audience data and how they use algorithms in their reporting, says Phil Napoli, a professor of public policy at Duke University who studies media regulation.

“They’re innovating and using technology and data in incredible ways,” Napoli says. “Go visit a local newspaper. You will see none of that.”

More than 1,800 newspapers nationwide shut down or drastically downsized in the last 15 years. Napoli and other scholars say this has dire consequences for how well democratic institutions function at the local level.

“You’re not as likely these days to see reporters covering county governments, city government, school board meetings, town council meetings, all that sort of thing. These are important gaps that need to be filled,” he says.

Napoli is studying “news deserts“—localities with limited or no local news outlets. He is finding out how much truly local critical information these communities are getting from the newspapers that remain—and from new digital start-ups.

Hear Napoli’s take on declines in local news, shuttering newspapers, and how that affects democracy in this episode of the Ways & Means podcast:

Additional guests on the episode include Angie Newsome, founder and executive director of Carolina Public Pressm and Cameron Beach, a student journalist for the 9th Street Journal in Durham, North Carolina.

Read the transcript for this episode here.”