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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Local Journalism: Points of Light in Dark Times

Many posts have dealt with media problems such as ghost newspapers and news deserts.

Some national outlets are doing fine, but local newspapers are struggling.

From AP:
The Associated Press today announced five new content sharing agreements with U.S. nonprofit news outlets: CalMatters, Honolulu Civil Beat, Montana Free Press, Nebraska Journalism Trust and South Dakota News Watch.

The collaborations are part of an effort to expand the reach of local news ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential election and increasing access to AP’s nonpartisan journalism, especially in communities that may have limited access to fact-based news. They follow the content sharing arrangement between AP and the Texas Tribune announced in March.

Each organization will share AP journalism with its audience. AP will distribute stories from each outlet to the news agency’s members and customers, supplementing AP’s existing coverage of California, Hawaii, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota.

“As local coverage shrinks, content sharing agreements with other mission-driven news organizations across the U.S. are more important than ever,” said AP U.S. News Director Josh Hoffner. “These agreements are exciting opportunities for AP journalism to reach new audiences in an election year and simultaneously bolster the AP news report from states that can sometimes be overlooked.”

“Our mission is to inform and engage the 39 million people who call California home,” said CalMatters CEO Neil Chase, “so we’re grateful for this collaboration with The Associated Press. It makes it much easier for hundreds of news organizations across California to share our journalism with their audiences. It’s wonderful to be able to tell a newsroom that republishing our work is now as easy as publishing an AP story.”
William McKenzie, Senior Editorial Advisor, George W. Bush Institute
Not all is lost in local journalism, even though more than half of American counties have no local news source or only one outlet, often a weekly newspaper. Here are two encouraging signs:

First, Lookout Santa Cruz, City Bureau, and the Invisible Institute won Pulitzer Prizes this month. The former for breaking news reporting on devastating floods and mudslides in its California coastal town. Journalists for the latter two shared the local reporting prize for a collaborative investigative series on missing Black women and girls in Chicago. What’s more, the Invisible Institute won a second Pulitzer for audio reporting. This hyperlocal coverage comes from three digital news operations that focus deeply on their communities and neighborhoods.

Longtime newspaper executive and media analyst Ken Doctor started the digital-only Lookout Santa Cruz in 2020. The parent company, Lookout Local, now is launching a site in Eugene, Oregon.

The nonprofit City Bureau began in 2015 to cover the south and west sides of Chicago. The Invisible Institute grew out of a larger project focusing on Chicago’s South Side.

Call their successes points of light in local journalism.

Second, the Pew Research Center’s latest in-depth study of local news shows that 85% of Americans believe local news organizations are at least somewhat important to their communities. And 44% believe the organizations are extremely or very important to their towns and cities.

True, Pew found a declining share of Americans follow local news, just as fewer people follow national news. Still, an increasing share of respondents believe local journalists are in touch with their communities – 69% in 2024 versus 63% in 2018. And that local news organizations report accurately (71%), cover key stories (68%), are transparent about their work (63%), and watch local leaders (61%).

Is more work needed to improve those numbers? Of course. But the strength of our democracy rests on the health of our communities. And robust local journalism is one sure way to bolster our communities.