There’s a new study published by the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism detailing a pretty serious threat by the forces of Stupid. The report finds that since many newspapers are now owned by hedge funds and other outside corporate groups (with no particular sense of civic responsibility); so, rather than continue to fund papers that are losing money (because they never got classified ad revenue and subscription dollars back from the internet), there are approximately 200 newspapers across the country whose future is uncertain.
“Because the primary mission of the new newspaper publishers is to make money for their investors and shareholders, the report explores the possibility that many communities may soon lose their primary source of local news, leaving behind news deserts across entire regions of the country.”
The loss of that many local newspapers would be a huge victory for the forces of Stupid, because a lot of those publications represent the last news coverage produced in those areas. How will people have any clue about local officials’ actions, changes to laws, immanent danger, and every things else that papers deliver informationally. Readers of certain age might remember when local radio stations had reporters. Now, at most, local radio has a traffic guy, a few hosts with the fortitude for on-site reporting from a sports bar, and that’s about it. The change happened when Clear Channel, Cumulus and a short list of others bought up all of the radio stations and consolidated operations to a handful of regional hubs. Once-busy stations were turned into ghost towns with algorithms instead of DJs.
If you’re uncertain about the essential informational value of strong local newspapers, go back and check out this brilliant segment from John Oliver about the state of journalism. Or, dive into this 2009 interview with David Simon (The Wire, etc.), wherein he expresses similar concern, and cites journalism as one of the only balances against political corruption.