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We Might Be Looking at Issue of Local News Backward

Jack Shafer makes the case that it's a problem with demand, not supply
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2021 8:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – You've no doubt heard the lament about the death of local news throughout the country and the potentially dire consequences that might result. Local governments operating with no accountability, for instance. Generally, the blame is laid upon on greedy publishers focused on the bottom line or online behemoths such as Google and Facebook, writes Jack Shafer at Slate. But in all the finger-pointing, he notes that one major culprit often gets overlooked—readers themselves. The demand for local news simply isn't that great, and he cites research—such as this Pew survey—to buttress the point. He doesn't dispute the worth of good, local reporting, but points out that finding a profitable market is difficult.

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"The local news movement won’t make much progress until its proponents realize that its primary obstacle is a demand-side one, not a supply-side one," writes Shafer. "It’s not that nobody wants to read local news; it’s just that not enough people do to make it a viable business." Meaning that even if high-minded philanthropists underwrite more local coverage, they'd still have get people to actually read it. Read the full piece, which includes a big-picture look at the rise and fall of local news. It came to prominence decades ago when publishers swimming in money (before online advertising) created new sections, including local news, notes Shafer. Now that all the money is gone, so are those extra sections. For a look at why the decline in local news might be bad for US politics, see this piece at FiveThirtyEight. (Read more journalism stories.)

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