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Local News Under Stress

- December 14, 2018
Can legacy media survive in the digital age?
Featured Report

Traditional local news media are facing unprecedented challenges in the rapidly changing digital environment. Led largely by younger consumers, the public has shifted its news consumption habits from television and newspapers to online sources and social media. Audiences, readership and revenues have plummeted, and more than 1,800 daily and weekly newspapers have gone under since 2004. Meanwhile, media conglomerates have bought up scores of local TV stations, with one company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, even requiring employees to read conservative editorials on the air at all its stations. At the same time, huge swaths of the country have become “news deserts,” with no newspaper to monitor local government. Many news outlets that remain have slashed staffs, raising questions about their ability to cover local government or provide other community news needed for an informed citizenry. Alternative online news sources, some specializing in specific topics such as local sports or education, have sprung up to fill the void. But some analysts believe such outlets cannot provide the kind of in-depth, objective reporting required to support democracy.

A Shrinking Industry

Revenue, circulation and viewership continue to decline.

Trump and the Courts

CNN sued the president for banning one of its reporters from the White House.

1690s–1790sA free press is established in America in the form of local newspapers.
1830s–1890sThe press becomes a powerful force in U.S. society.
1900s–1970sJournalism gains stature as a public watchdog.
1980–2005Cable news and the internet transform public news consumption habits.
2008–PresentPrint media continue to struggle amid new levels of public distrust.

Can online sites replace traditional local news?


Steve Beatty
Interim Executive Director, Local Independent Online News Publishers.


Dennis Anderson
Executive Editor, Journal Star, Peoria, Ill..


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