The first week of both January and this challenge has flown by! You can read previous newsletters here.
An independent local newspaper (physical or online) puts federal government policies into context for a local audience. It covers city council meetings and local elections. It keeps money in the community by connecting customers with local small businesses. It brings together neighbors and strengthens communities. And it informs both larger media outlets and local citizenry.
The pandemic has underscored our need for local news coverage—to track the various waves of the outbreak in our regions, to stay informed about community response and local mandates, and to determine when, where and how to get vaccines. Both big and small news outlets early on dropped their paywalls in order to deliver essential COVID information to the public.
Meanwhile, although readership increased during the pandemic, many local news outlets shuttered in tandem with the local businesses that had provided ad revenue to pay reporters’ salaries. This comes on the well-heeled heels of hedge fund managers buying up local beleaguered newspapers only to slash expenses and cut staff in order to squeeze out whatever profits remained.
Since 2019, approximately 1,800 newspapers have folded in the US (about a fifth). Even if you don’t think you live in a news desert because your local newspaper hasn’t closed shop, that paper may be a hollowed shell of its former self, a ghost paper.
At the same time, in 2019, digital advertising finally surpassed traditional ads, mostly through Facebook and Google. With less money supporting local news, people turn to Facebook (and Google, but more often, Facebook), where mis- and disinformation spread like another pandemic. Or they turn to national news outlets, which don’t cover many (if any) local stories and do increasingly sound like polarized echo chambers.
Local news is on a ventilator.
Addressing the climate crisis requires a functioning democracy and that calls for an informed citizenry.
How to support local news
In the US, go here to find local news sources where you live and subscribe if you can afford to (or buy gift subscriptions for others). You don’t have to read physical newspapers but if you do, you might enjoy your time away from a screen.
Support journalists. Read their columns. Leave constructive comments. Supply leads when you have them.
If you own a small local business, advertise in your local paper.
Support organizations that support local news. In the US, you’ll find resources here from Knight Foundation.
Here’s what I do
I’m putting this out there to give you some ideas.
Although my money goes to a hedge fund profiting by destroying the news, I do subscribe to the local Mercury News. It’s complicated. But I figure if I unsubscribe because I don’t want my money filling a hedge fund’s coffers, I’ll only speed up the paper’s demise. Plus I like to know what’s going on where I live.
Before moving to the US, I didn’t know how I would survive without CBC Radio. I had listened to it daily back in the olde country. On my first day in California, I discovered KQED, my local NPR station, and have listened to it ever since. I am a member and donate monthly.
Although not local, I pay for a monthly digital subscription to the New York Times so I can access its excellent reporting.
I donate monthly to The Guardian (also not local), one of the few large news outlets that has had a climate beat for many years.
Please leave a comment or question below for your fellow participants. How did today’s action go? Do you already subscribe to a local paper? Did you subscribe to one? If so, which one?
I subscribe to the Toronto Star everyday because of it's coverage of local news and the Globe and Mail 2 days a week. I read the Guardian every once in a while and feel guilty about it since I don't subscribe. Oh yea. I use the old paper to line my kitchen organics container and crunch it up to throw in the green bin every week.
Resubscribed local! Interesting observations here! From a fellow CBC radio Junkie!