News that is reliable, relevant, and informative is necessary to educate people about issues, policies, and decisions that impact their lives. According to the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, the absence of local journalism is at crisis levels. For many Americans, there simply is no local news outlet for them to rely on for information. For 65 million more, they have just one local news outlet.
The increasing lack of local journalism diminishes the public’s knowledge. People now turn to social media or national mainstream media to get the nationalized version of the news. This trend creates a poorly-informed citizenry, and these systems may manipulate the gullible.
The problem with social media is that the main goal is to get users addicted to the systems and not necessarily to publish the facts, improve communication, or cover local interests. Sensational misinformation gets more attention.
Mainstream Media and Corporate Agendas
A review of the Harvard Business School May 2021 report on the mainstream media in the U.S. shows the concentration of ownership. When a national conglomerate owns the local station and the corporation controls the news programming, the company may advance a corporate agenda to impact national decisions with little attention paid to localized information.
The news anchors at all of these stations read the same news stories that come down from the corporate headquarters. See this example of the local news anchors all reading the same story on Sinclair stations. Sinclair is the largest owner of local stations.
Local News Matters
In small towns and rural areas, local journalists are responsible for disseminating news that has meaning for residents. Local news matters, as it may be the only way to access public information needed by community members.
When local journalism functions well, it encourages political, economic, and social participation by those impacted by the decisions made by the municipal, county, and state governments.
Trustworthiness of Local Journalists
Most people place more trust in local journalists compared to national news sources. This trustworthiness may improve if the local journalists are active in the community and considered contributing members.
Many Americans believe powerful individuals and organizations are not held accountable for their actions. Local journalists combat this perception by being transparent about potential conflicts of interest and neutral about issues while presenting the information in their reports.
The Benefits of Local Journalism
A powerful local story may break to a national level and spread awareness about an important issue. Local news celebrates the achievements of a community.
Local journalism supports community needs through activism. Local journalists may be considered heroes by the residents when fighting for the community by taking on corruption.
Local journalism is no longer about printed newspapers. The valuable, informative purpose of local journalism is easy to manifest online. News sharing through social media is effective when focused on a local level as a community news service.
If you lack a local news service, why not set up one as a nonprofit and work with volunteers? If a high school can publish an online newsletter, so can any community.
Creating and supporting a system to publish relevant local news benefits the community. Local journalism allows news coverage to focus on important topics for community members. What is missing? There are fewer instances of local journalism holding local government to account or examples of local news covering local issues to help make some kind of improvement.