8 Responses to “Local News is a Vital Tool for Civic Engagement: How’s the Health of Your Local Newspaper?”

  1. Gary Herman

    Very well done! It’s been a trend for years as less and less media outlets attend meetings or report on items of public importance. I remember back when I was a reporter covering school board meetings, there four newspaper reporters and a couple of radio news reporters present at the meeting. PIOs play an ever more pivotal role in spreading the good (and sometimes not-so-good) news about what a city or county is doing. Plus, today, everyone is a “journalist” on social media. We need to support our local media and help them report accurately. Thanks for the great article, Catherine!

    • John Stephens

      Gary – would appreciate your further thoughts on >>Plus, today, everyone is a “journalist” on social media<< This idea of a "low bar" for reporting and commenting on local affairs via social media seems to hold hope and caution. Hope in that more voices can be heard, and faster, and without filters. Caution in that standards for news gathering, context, clarity and transparency of sources may be diminished. Can you say more about your views on social media and its role in (some forms of) journalism? Thanks.

      • Gary Herman

        Well, John, the usage of social media as “news media” scares me to some degree because rumors (or even “fake news” in terms of politics) can be quickly reported as facts and spread like wildfire. Ask yourself this question: When I hear about someone getting murdered in my neighborhood, do I turn on the TV to watch the local news? Do I turn on the local radio station? Or do I open the Facebook or Twitter app? Most of the time, I do the latter. There is simply no fact-checking or attribution to the information being posted, although many times at least a portion of the information is true. I try to at least check the local newspaper’s or local radio station’s Facebook page first to get hard news. It’s just food for thought, but it does seem like traditional news media are having to adapt to our new “social” lifestyle.

  2. Shaan Hassan

    I agree, I feel it’s very important that we maintain a healthy news system and stay informed on the happenings of our community. With newspapers declining, we must be more creative with how we get the information to our citizens and this article lays out all the issues in the table. Thank you!

  3. Brian Bowman

    Great post, and another reminder of the importance of a free and independent press. Local newspapers certainly aren’t perfect, but as the author stated, they’re often the only ones watching over meetings that may not appeal to other media outlets. A good reporter also builds trust with officials, gaining a better perspective of what stories are important and why.

    Professional government communicators (aka PIOs) are an important link right now – they know the ins and outs of local government, are effective writers, and are often former journalists. They typically push for more transparency (televised meetings, budget presentations, etc.); however, as noble as their intentions may be, they are beholden to the organization’s leadership. Management and elected officials must also believe in transparency for a PIO to communicate well.

  4. Cal Horton

    Now that The Chapel Hill News has been reduced to a source for restaurant reviews and recipes, the citizens of Chapel Hill have lost their best source of independently published local government news. They also have lost an active community forum, where opinions of editors and citizens focused attention on community issues. How will citizens learn about actions of the Town Council? How will they sound an alarm to alert their fellow citizens when they believe some wrong has been perpetrated? What forum will they use to criticize the Town Manager and the Mayor? Where will citizens learn of zoning and development issues? Perhaps it is time for the Town Council to create a replacement news source and forum, led by an independent editorial board of appointed citizens, and staffed by professional journalists.

  5. John Stephens

    Catherine and commenters – here’s an updated resource per Catherine’s noting the idea of “news deserts” // From Thwarting the Rise of News Deserts, a symposium on March 28, 2017 –
    Excerpt: In this series of articles, we update recent newspaper ownership changes, profile
    a privately held company that has bought more than a hundred newspapers in the
    last three years, and explore the connection between local journalism and the
    health of communities and citizenship in North Carolina, Michigan and Alaska.
    Two of the articles examine how five local papers in eastern North Carolina – only
    two of which are independent – covered the 2016 elections and the devastating
    aftermath of hurricane Matthew.
    Details: http://newspaperownership.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Symposium-Leave-Behind-Web-Final.pdf

  6. Catherine Lazorko

    A related story is developing on this topic. The country’s largest owner of local TV stations, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which reaches over a third of homes across the nation, wants to get even bigger by merging with the Tribune Media Company. But Sinclair is raising concerns among media watchers because of its practice of combining news with partisan political opinion. http://www.pbs.org/video/how-sinclair-broadcasting-puts-a-partisan-tilt-on-local-news-1507678399/

    Thanks for thoughtful comments and conversation, which I hope we continue and expand widely.


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