Editorial: Local news is dying, and that has repercussions

Local news organizations have become a dying breed, and many do not realize the impact that this has on their lives, but there is still time to save it.

Associated Press reporter David Bauder found in November 2023, that one-third of all U.S. newspapers have closed and two-thirds of all newspaper journalists have lost their jobs since 2005. From a local perspective, the Los Angeles Times announced the layoffs of at least 115 employees in January. 

One of the main issues that caused the lack of interest from the people is the immediate access to information on social media. Many people now prefer to get their news from social media, rather than subscribing to a newspaper.

“The last two generations have decided that they don’t want to spend the time in the morning picking up a newspaper and reading it,” Inland Valley Daily Bulletin history columnist Joe Blackstock said. “So when that happens, the circulation drops, advertising drops, people get laid off, the papers get smaller and smaller, and it’s a trend that ultimately is very predictable in a way.”

Because people are more interested in social media and are not reading the newspapers, news organizations are continuously losing money.

There’s a lot of blame that goes around, rightfully so on, advertising,” said former Los Angeles Times entertainment reporter Emily St. Martin, who earned her journalism degree from the University of La Verne in 2020. She was one of the reporters laid off in January. “We just don’t have it like we used to… newspapers used to be completely sustained on advertising, and now social media and Google has all of that revenue.”

Getting your news from social media opens the door to the mass spread of misinformation because many of those “reporting” that information are not credentialed or experts in that field. The term “fake news” became a fixture in news conversations and it is easy for people to say whatever they believe and make it seem real on the internet. Also consumers who do not do their research on world topics and believe what anyone says support the ongoing misinformation plaguing the media today.

Today only the bigger news organizations are able to stay afloat, which has a larger impact than people may realize. The big news organizations are not going to care about things happening in your local town, so you will never know what is happening. Local elections, crime and so much more get swept under the rug, leaving local residents clueless about what is happening around them.

“The fact is, it’s the one thing that immediately can affect them,” Blackstock said. “If it’s a story about a murder down the street, they want every detail, they want to know about it.”

An example of this just played out in La Verne, when the La Verne City Council canceled the March 5 council election due to lack of nominations. Had there been coverage of the local news and elections communicated through rigorous reporting, there very well could have been nominees challenging incumbents, and allowing residents a voice in their local government. 

“What makes local news so important, especially to local residents in a small town like La Verne (is) if people don’t know what’s going on in their communities, how can anybody fight something that’s unjust?  How can anybody hold a corrupt local politician accountable?” St. Martin said.

The unfortunate reality is that things like this have become more common in recent years in local governments. The people who only consume news from the big news organizations are completely uninformed about the government and events that affect them the most.

“But if they were interested in truly how their government works, how their city works and stuff like that, you wouldn’t have 20% turnout at an election, which often happens in a lot of these cities,” Blackstock said.

The most important thing to help save local news is for local residents to have an interest in what goes on around them. If residents want to know more about the things happening in their area, the only way to find it is through local news organizations.

Now, to be fair, newspapers have not been the best at adapting to the times. With many, especially the younger generations, preferring to consume news through video form, newspapers need to find a way to make newspapers more appealing to the younger generation.

“Now, you could also make a case that the daily paper that was printed today looks just like the daily paper that was printed 40 years ago,” Blackstock said. “How many industries continue to do exactly the same thing and produce the exact same product that they did 40 years ago or 80 years ago? Only difference is really that the paper is smaller, fewer ads and there’s color. But aside from that, it’s the same newspapers that have failed to modernize.”

Blackstock added that he has tried over the years to come up with a different way to make the newspapers more modern, but has struggled to find a way that works.

The people deserve to have their voices heard, and the only way to do that is to consume local news to be more informed and have a say in what they think will help their local communities, and by doing that, local news organizations can get back on their feet and deliver the information that the people need to hear.

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