I saw this report shared someplace recently, Assessing Local Journalism: News Deserts, Journalism Divides, and the Determinants of the Robustness of Local News. It’s as much about journalism as it is about the health of American communities. From its executive summary:
Drawing upon an analysis of over 16,000 news stories, gathered over seven days, across 100 randomly sampled U.S. communities, this study found that:
- Eight communities contained no stories addressing critical information needs.
- Twelve communities contained no original news stories.
- Twenty communities contained no local news stories.
In addition, this study found that:
- Only about 17 percent of the news stories provided to a community are truly local – that is actually about or having taken place within – the municipality.
- Less than half (43 percent) of the news stories provided to a community by local media outlets are original (i.e., are produced by the local media outlet).
- Just over half (56 percent) of the news stories provided to a community by local media outlets address a critical information need
“Only about 17 percent of the news stories provided to a community are truly local…”
It seems to me that the near death of our civic and social life, of even our ability to be aware of what’s happening in our communities, is both much worse than we realize and also a much bigger practical crisis than the drama of our national politics.
When most local news isn’t, that means that the conglomerates presenting easy-to-obtain and cheap-to-free national content through formerly local brands are simply running out the clock until those brands are completely dead. That means there’s opportunity in creating news and media brands that will contribute to the civic and social health of particular communities now, so that they’ll be firmly in place when the old brands finally die.