Loss of local newspapers means political regression

The final edition of the Pryor Daily Time, which in 2017 announced its own closure.

 

Without trustworthy political information, we fall back on party labels and our partisan identities

By Joshua P. Darr, Johanna Dunaway an Matthew P. Pitt | NeimanLab

It almost seems impossible to ignore national politics today. The stream of stories about the president and Congress is endless; whether online, in print or on television, it’s never been easier to follow the action.

National news outlets are adapting well to this environment: The New York Times and Wall Street Journal made big gains in digital subscribers in 2016 and 2017, CNN had its most-watched year ever in 2018, and The New York Times added 120 new newsroom staffers this year.

But local newspapers aren’t doing as well. The past decade was brutal for the local press, and the numbers behind the collapse of local newspapers are staggering. In 2006, American newspapers sold over $49 billion in ads, employed more than 74,000 people and circulated to 52 million Americans on weekdays. By 2017, ad revenues were down to $16.5 billion (a 66 percent drop); the newspaper workforce fell by 47 percent, to just over 39,000; and weekday circulation fell below 31 million.

At a time when national political news is inescapable, there’s less local news to be found — and less interest in local politics from Americans.

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