The Decline of Local News is Solvable
Margaret. Sullivan is the media columnist for the Washington Post and formerly the public editor of the new. York Times. Her new book is called ghosting the news local journalism and the Crisis of American democracy? I talked with her about the scale and seriousness the collapse of local news and what can be done to fix it. Or Margaret thanks for joining us on solvable and let's talk first about the dimensions of this problem. There's no question that we are losing local newspapers. I think something close to two thousand. If I read that right in your book have gone out of business in the past fifteen years and the ones that are remain aren't exactly thriving, and of course that matters a lot to us journalists says our friends that's the system we came up in. But why does this matter so much as you say in the title of your book to American Democracy. It matters because. While newspapers are certainly not the only way that people are informed about their communities in their public officials, they have been over time perhaps the key way that people get information about how their local governments are functioning and how communities have a base of. facts from which to operate they may disagree on the facts or what to do about them but they sort of have this shared substance that that makes sense to everybody. As that has dwindled away largely because of the dissolution of the underlying business model based on print advertising. Largely, people are are less informed people are less civically engaged and it. It hurts the underlying the underpinnings of of the way our society in our government is supposed to function. So it's primarily an accountability problem. Right if simply put if the press isn't watching government officials can get away with more corruption mismanagement. I think you said it exactly right Jacob. It is primarily an accountability problem but I I see another aspect to to which I just like to mention which is has nothing to do with really watchdog journalism or that accountability piece, which is that newspapers have traditionally been away that communities helped knit themselves together whether it's about coverage of concerts or restaurants or theater or interesting people or obituaries it's sort of village square for the community. That has nothing to do with whether the town council or the city council is mismanaging your tax dollars, but it does have to do with sort of cohesion within the community. So it's it's both of those things and probably a bunch of others to. But why is it important that it's news organizations versus you know bloggers or people posting smartphone videos tweeting about what's going on their town or community Weisensee. Citizen Journalism the replacement for all this. Citizen Journalism. If that's what we want to call it is is part of the solution. One of the things it can't do very well, though is publicized to the same degree that a front page headline or a big homepage treatment can from the Chicago Tribune or the Sun Times you know it's a lot easier to ignore a gadfly citizen as these folks might be seen rather than a big institution that's powerful.