As you all know by now, Round Earth Media’s focus is on important, under-reportedinternational stories. But we think local newsis just as important. On that score, the situation is increasingly grim with disastrous consequences for our democracy. From an article published this week by Bloomberg:
America is overrun with “news deserts,” cities and towns where local coverage is lacking or altogether absent….Without journalists digging through property records or attending city council meetings, looking for official wrongdoing and revealing secret deals, local politicians will operate unchecked—with predictable consequences. But the fallout is much bigger than just keeping municipal government honest.
Studies have shown that communities without quality local news coverage see lower rates of voter turnout….they demonstrate less social cohesion, corroding any actual sense of community.
These ramifications are indeed daunting, despite efforts to reverse this trend.
- New Jersey has allocated $5 million in government funds to support local media. But that’s a drop in the bucket with larger sums from government unlikely. Norway spends about $140 per capita each year on its public broadcasters…the U.K. spends $88, and Canada spends $22. The U.S., however, spends under $3, according to Bloomberg.
- Universities (similar to our partnership with SIT Study Abroad) have deployed student journalists to cover their communities. So has Report for America, a journalism nonprofit akin to AmeriCorps and Teach for America, which intends to send 1,000 journalists to regional newsrooms by 2022. A step in the right direction but not nearly enough.
Study after study shows the harm from a lack of local coverage. Congressmen work less hard for their constituents, for instance. There’s even a correlation between rising municipal bond costs and a moribund local press. Click HERE for more on those connections and on the image above for the Bloomberg piece.
Last weekend’s news hit me hard: Themultiple Pulitzer Prize-winning Village Voicewill be folding. As all New Yorkers know (and I can attest as a devoted reader especially when I lived there), this paper has been a rugged, literate, intrepid investigator into all things New York, leading the way in exposing graft and corruption. While ProPublica and the Center for Investigative Reporting (non profits producing investigative journalism similar to Round Earth’s internationalreporting) make important contributions, they can’t replace newspapers focused narrowly on our cities and our communities.