S5E2 When Local News Dries Up

On this episode: a look at why local news is struggling, why that matters for democracy and what can be done about it. Listen:

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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.

newsstand in the desert with the words "closed"

Art: Rae Hsu

Phil Napoli is a public policy professor who studies media regulation. He says 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.

“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: Angie Newsome, founder and executive director, Carolina Public Press; Cameron Beach, student journalist, The 9th Street Journal, Durham NC

Music: Theme music by David Schulman. “Firefly,” “The Window,” “Algo Rhythm Natural,” “Going Forward, Looking Back” by Sound of Picture. Jumpin Boogie Woogie by Audionautix  used with a Creative Commons license.  

This season of Ways & Means is supported by Polis: the Center for Politics at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy