Statement on Oklahoma News Deserts

Local newspapers have historically been the prime source of credible and comprehensive news about important issues and events that affect the quality of lives of residents in a community. That’s why our research at UNC seeks to identify communities located in emerging “news deserts,” and those at risk of becoming news deserts, because their local “newspapers” no longer cover local government meetings or provide basic public service journalism. Therefore, in our 2018 report – as well as in our 2016 report -- we intentionally excluded shoppers, newsletters, specialty publications, advertising inserts and some zoned editions with no locally produced public service journalism – even if they were identified as newspapers in other industry databases.

Following an inquiry this week from a columnist at the Tulsa World about counties we had listed as lacking newspapers, we rechecked our initial assessment of the situation in Oklahoma and discovered two data-entry errors. The Marietta Monitor was listed in the wrong county, and the Wagoner County American-Tribune was inadvertently dropped from our database when it merged with the Coweta American in 2016.  We also ascertained from the Oklahoma Press Association that the Hollis News in Harmon County has closed.

However, despite extensive online and telephone research over the past two days, we have been unable to determine the status of the other four newspapers in question.  One appears to have closed and the other three appear to be either neighborhood newsletters or shoppers with no public service journalism.  In summary, we are now listing four counties in Oklahoma as having no local newspapers.

We stand by the conclusions in our 2018 report and by our methodology. In general, information on newspapers in our 2018 report was cross-referenced with at least four sources, including industry databases compiled by Editor and Publisher and BIA Kelsey, membership lists of state and regional press associations, and independent online research and analysis.

Despite extensive layers of verification, inadvertent errors invariably occur with a database this extensive. We are constantly working to update our database of more than 9,000 newspapers.  That is why we encourage crowd-sourcing to make sure our data is as accurate as possible.

We hope interested citizens, as well as researchers, will use the interactive maps on our website to drill down to the county level and compare how communities across the country have been affected by the diminishment of local news. If you believe we have omitted a newspaper providing public-service journalism to a community, or know of papers that have closed, please let us know using our correction form.

Last decade has seen dramatic reduction in local newspapers across Virginia

"Last decade has seen dramatic reduction in local newspapers across Virginia" by Michael Pope for WMRA Virginia Public Radio, Oct. 24, 2018 

Reporter Michael Pope talks with Professor Penelope Muse Abernathy about the dramatic loss of more than 40 local newspapers in Virginia in the last decade, and the resulting consequences for civic participation and social cohesion.