EDITORIAL: Know what’s going on in the community? Thank your local newspaper

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A recent study titled “Losing the News: The Decimation of Local News and the Search for Solutions” sounds the alarm about the existential threat facing local watchdog journalism and proposes big-picture solutions for its revitalization.

At a time when political polarization is growing and fraudulent news is spreading, a shared baseline of facts on the issues that most directly affect residents of a community is more essential than ever. Without reliable information on how tax dollars are spent, how policy affects communities and whether local elected officials are meeting constituent needs, how can citizens make informed choices about who should govern?

Given the vital role local news plays as a cornerstone of American democracy, its plight should be the subject of a national conversation. Yet most Americans do not yet realize their local news sources often struggle and only a small minority pay for local news.

As the availability of true local journalism declines, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency and effectiveness. Malfeasance goes unchecked. With the loss of local news, citizens are less likely to vote, less politically informed and less likely to run for office.

Because newspapers still provide the majority of original local reporting in communities, their evisceration robs the public of trusted sources of critical information about health, education, elections and other pressing local issues.

Many of the communities traditionally underserved by legacy local media – communities of color, low-income communities and communities in rural areas – are those most affected by its decline. 

It may cost some money to read your local newspaper, whether by subscribing or buying a copy each week from a rack, but the return for doing so is invaluable. Spend some money and support your local newspaper, because when looking at the big picture, can you afford not to?